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EZRA 

INTRODUCTION 

[Following is the introduction to both Ezra and Nehemiah, for they are parts of one 
whole.] 

1. Title. In Hebrew Bible manuscripts Ezra and Nehemiah appeared as one volume, 
like the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles, until a.d. 1448, when the Vulgate 
division into two volumes was introduced into a Hebrew manuscript for the first time. 
Originally, the united book was called “Ezra.” But in the LXX this was divided in two 
parts called 2 and 3 Esdras, prefaced by the Apocryphal 1 Esdras, which contains 
excerpts from the two canonical books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Jerome was the first to 
give the two canonical books the names “Ezra” and “Nehemiah,” names which they 
retain to the present day. He designated 1 Esdras of the LXX as 3 Esdras and classed it as 
an Apocryphal book. 

2. Authorship. Ezra and Nehemiah form the historical and literary continuation of the 
books of Chronicles, and a study of the style and language reveals that they probably had 
the same author. Jewish tradition (the Talmud) names Ezra as the chief author (Baba 

Bathra 15a) and Nehemiah as the one who completed the work. 

Although the double book Ezra-Nehemiah does not claim to have been written in its 
entirety by Ezra, there is nothing in it which could not have been written by him. The 
author used official material of Zerubbabel’s time and his own, and also reports probably 
written by Nehemiah. The change in pronouns from the 1st person to the 3d person 
singular is no proof of a multiple authorship within the sections dealing with Ezra’s (3d 
person: chs. 7:1-26; 8:35, 36; 10:1-44; 1st person: chs. 7:27 to 8:34; 9:1-15) and 
Nehemiah’s work (1st person: chs. 1:1 to 7:73; 12:27 to 13:31; 3d person: chs. 8:1 to 
12:26. Such changes appear also in ancient non-Biblical literature (see on Ezra 7:28). 

Since the various lists of priests and Levites presented in Nehemiah 12 terminate 
about 400 B.c. (see on Neh. 12:10, 11,22), the book seems to have been written at about 
that time, the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Ezra was a scribe (Ezra 7:6), and was anxious 
to acquaint his people with the sacred writings (see Neh. 8:1-8). It would have been 
strange indeed for such a man not to make provision for preserving for the guidance and 
edification of posterity an accurate account of the wonderful events of his time. It is 
therefore entirely appropriate to consider Ezra the inspired author of the books of 
Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah. In writing, he was guided in making selections from 
available public records, such as decrees (see Ezra 1:2-4; Ezra 6:6-12; etc.), letters (see 
Ezra 4:11-16; 5:7-17; etc.), lists (see Ezra 2:1-67; etc.), and other source materials. 

The fact that two sections of Ezra are written in Aramaic (chs. 4:8 to 6:18; 7:12-26) 
has been used in the past as evidence for a much later authorship than the time of Ezra. 
This argument was proposed at a time when there was only fragmentary knowledge of 
the spread and use of Aramaic in the Persian Empire. Since the discovery of numerous 
Aramaic documents from different parts of the Persian kingdom and of many Aramaic 
Jewish documents from Egypt, from the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, this argument is no 
longer valid. There is remarkably great similarity between the Aramaic of these 
documents and the Aramaic parts of Ezra. Aramaic had become the official language of 
the Persian Empire, and was used for the publication of decrees and directives, as well as 
for correspondence and for economic and legal documents. Hence, lettered men like Ezra 



were bilingual and could use both their mother tongue and Aramaic in speaking and 
writing. In fact, the use of Aramaic spread so widely that any man who could read was 
expected to know Aramaic; thus the author of Ezra could expect his readers to be able to 
understand his Aramaic sections. This accounts for the fact that he did not deem it 
necessary to translate into Hebrew the Aramaic source materials he used. Concerning 
contemporary Aramaic documents, seepp. 79-83. 

3. Historical Setting. Aside from Esther, Ezra and Nehemiah are the only historical 
books of the postexilic period, and are of great importance for a reconstruction of the 
history of postexilic Jewry. However, they do not record the history of the people of God 
in unbroken sequence for the period covered by the two books, but only certain parts of 
it. There are large gaps for which little information is available. 

Ezra records, first of all, the return of the Jews from exile under the guidance of 
Zerubbabel, the reorganization of the sacrificial service, and the beginning of the 
rebuilding of the Temple. All these events took place within about two years, early in the 
reign of Cyrus. During the next 13 years the work progressed slowly against opposition. 
Then appears an account of the resumption of the building of the Temple and its 
completion and dedication under Darius I. Of the next nearly 60 years Ezra leaves no 
record. Then, in 457 B.C., Ezra was sent back to Judea by King Artaxerxes, with far- 
reaching authority to reorganize the nation’s administration according to Mosaic law. He 
tells of his return and some of his reforms, but again breaks the thread of continuity for 
more than ten years, when Nehemiah appears on the scene of action as governor, and 
reports his activities in the book which bears his name. 

All the events described in Ezra and Nehemiah took place during the first half of the 
period of the Persian Empire, which lasted from 539 B.C., when Babylon fell to the 
victorious forces of Cyrus, until, with the death of Darius III in 331 B.C., the empire 
ceased to exist and was succeeded by that of Alexander the Great. The history of 
postexilic Jewry begins “in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia” (Ezra 1:1). The Persian 
Empire stretched from the desert wastes of Iran in the east to the coast of Asia Minor in 
the west, and from the Armenian highlands in the north to the border of Egypt in the 
south. Cyrus, its founder, was a prudent and humane monarch. In harmony with his 
policy of appeasing nations subjugated by Babylon, he resettled them in their old homes 
and restored their places of worship. In accord with this generous policy, the Jews were 
allowed to return to their old homeland and rebuild their Temple. For the most part, the 
kings of Persia attempted to rale their empire with equity and consideration. Their 
officials were admonished to practice honesty and to work in the interests of the peoples 
whom they governed. The monotheistic religion of Zoroaster, the state religion at least 
from Darius I on, stood on a much higher level than that of the polytheistic and idolatrous 
predecessors of the Persians, the people of Babylonia. 

When Cyrus took Babylon he became acquainted with the aged Daniel, trusted 
counselor of the great Nebuchadnezzar of a former era, and learned to appreciate his 
advice. Through Daniel, Cyras must have become acquainted with Isaiah’s prophecies 
concerning him and his appointed role in behalf of God’s people (Isa. 44:21 to 45:13), 
and granted their restoration (PK 557). The great work of pacifying his far-flung empire 
in its years of infancy required the king’s full attention. He lost his life in a campaign 
against unruly eastern tribes after a reign of about nine years, counted from the fall of 
Babylon. 



Returning to Judea, the Jews found hostile neighbors, and were continually harassed 
by the Samaritans, a people of mixed racial and religious origins. Because Cyrus was 
busy unifying his far-flung empire, these enemies succeeded in hindering the Jews and 
causing them untold trouble that slowed the work of rebuilding the Temple. 

Cyrus’ eldest son, Cambyses, reigned for less than eight years. His greatest 
achievement was the conquest of Egypt. That he was favorably disposed toward the Jews 
is known from a Jewish document found in Egypt, but we have no evidence that he 
actively assisted the Jews in rebuilding their Temple. 

The short reign of the false Smerdis proved a great setback for the Jews. Under this 
king, described by Darius as a destroyer of temples, the work at Jerusalem was stopped. 
The stoppage may have been partly due to Samaritan enemies, for new foundations had 
to be laid as soon as stable conditions under the strong government of Darius I permitted 
resumption of the work. The era of Darius the Great was marked by prosperity and order. 
The Jews, like other nations, benefited from his wise and strong rale. Under the spiritual 
leadership of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, they finished the Temple and dedicated 
it in the sixth regnal year of Darius, 515 B.C. 

An era of unrest began, however, when late in his reign Darius decided to invade 
Greece. From that time on the empire experienced repeated reverses in Greece, Egypt, 
and elsewhere that disturbed the internal peace and stability of the empire. The next two 
kings, Xerxes and Artaxerxes I, were weaklings, opportunists, and unstable in character, 
and owed their throne to the strong hand of powerful counselors. Disastrous campaigns in 
Greece and rebellions in Egypt and other parts of the empire caused great unrest and led 
to vacillating domestic and foreign policies. 

It was during a serious rebellion in Egypt (463-454 B.C.) that Ezra received major 
concessions for the Jews, whose good will Artaxerxes needed in this crucial period, since 
Judea lay athwart the highway to Egypt. Later, when the satrapy to which Judea belonged 
rebelled (after 450 B.C.), Artaxerxes apparently supported the supposedly loyal 
Samaritans under the erroneous assumption and fear that the Jews might join the 
rebellion. Accordingly Artaxerxes authorized the Samaritans to halt the rebuilding of the 
wall of Jerusalem, which had been in progress for some time. When order in the satrapy 
was restored, Nehemiah, a trusted Jewish court official, succeeded in obtaining a royal 
appointment as governor of Judea, and completed the rebuilding of the city wall. This he 
did under continuing threats of violence. 

He served as governor for two terms, and proved to be an able organizer and religious 
leader. He laid a comparatively solid political, social, and moral foundation that proved 
of great value in the turbulent times that followed. 

4. Theme. Ezra and Nehemiah are historical source books which record the 
outworking of the divine plan in the restoration of the Jews, whereby they were afforded 
another opportunity to cooperate with the eternal purposes and prove their right to exist 
as a nation. This record shows, furthermore, how the prophecies of Isaiah and Jeremiah 
were fulfilled, and provides invaluable source material by which other prophecies, those 
of Dan. 8 and 9, can securely be anchored to the facts of history. 

Ezra and Nehemiah illustrate, by a series of instructive examples, how a few people 
can do great things for God when led by God-fearing, sincere, unselfish, but fearless and 
determined leaders. These books contain much that edifies and that strengthens faith in 
the unfailing leadership of God. 



5. Outline. 

I. The Decree of Cyrus and the Return Under Zerubbabel, Ezra 1:1 to 4:5, 24. 

A. The decree of Cyrus, 1:1-11. 

1. A copy of the decree, 1:1-4. 

2. The Jews respond to the call, 1:5, 6. 

3. Cyras restores the sacred Temple vessels, 1:7-11. 

B. The list of returning exiles, 2:1-67. 

1. The leaders, 2:1, 2. 

2. The laity, 2:3-35. 

3. The Temple personnel, 2:36-63. 

4. The total number of the congregation, 2:64. 

5. The servants, entertainers, and beasts of burden, 2:65-67. 

C. Resumption of the daily offering; laying the foundation of the Temple, 2:68 to 3:13. 

1. Gifts for the new Temple, 2:68, 69. 

2. Settlement of the returned exiles, 2:70. 

3. Rebuilding of the altar and resumption of the daily sacrifices, 3:1-6. 

4. Contracts made for materials, and with workmen, 3:7. 

5. Laying of the foundation of the new Temple, 3:8-13. 

D. Building carried on under difficulties until it is stopped, 4:1-5, 24. 

1. The Samaritans offer assistance and are rejected, 4:1-3. 

2. Efforts of enemies to hinder the work, 4:4, 5. 

II. Attempts to Elann the Jews During the Early Years of Ahasuerus, Ezra 4:6. 

III. Artaxerxes Stops the Building of the Wall of Jerusalem, Ezra 4:7-23. 

A. Letter of Bishlam of Samaria to Artaxerxes, 4:7-16. 

B. Reply of Artaxerxes, pennitting the Samaritans to stop the work, 4:17-22. 

C. Samaritans stop the work by force, 4:23. 

IV. Resumption and Completion of the Building of the Temple in the Time of Darius I, Ezra 
5:1 to 6:22. 

A. Haggai and Zechariah bring about a resumption of the work on the Temple, 5:1,2. 

B. Tatnai’s visit to Jerusalem, 5:3-17. 

1. Tatnai’s visit and talk with the elders, 5:3-5. 

2. Tatnai’s letter to Darius, 5:6-17. 

C. The decree of Darius, 6:1-12. 

1. The decree of Cyras found at Achmetha, 6:1,2. 

2. A copy of the decree of Cyrus, 6:3-5. 

3. Darius’ instructions to Tatnai, 6:6-12. 

D. The Temple finished and dedicated, 6:13-22. 

1. Tatnai aids the Jews, 6:13. 

2. The new Temple completed, 6:14, 15. 

3. The dedication of the new Temple, 6:16-18. 

4. Celebration of the Passover, 6:19-22. 

V. The Decree of Artaxerxes I and the Return Under Ezra, Ezra 7:1 to 10:44. 

A. The decree of Artaxerxes, 7:1-28. 

1. Ezra’s genealogy, 7:1-5. 

2. A brief account of the return, 7:6-10. 

3. A copy of the decree, 7:11-26. 



4. Ezra’s expression of gratitude, 7:27, 28. 

B. The return from Babylon, 8:1-36. 

1. A list of the returning exiles, 8:1-14. 

2. The assembling at Ahava and the solicitation of Levites, 8:15-20. 

3. Preparations for the journey at Ahava, 8:21-30. 

4. Arrival at Jerusalem and delivery of gifts, 8:31-36. 

C. Ezra’s reforms, 9:1 to 10:44. 

1. Ezra’s distress over foreign marriages in Judea, and his prayer, 9:1-15. 

2. Leaders and people willingly divorce the foreign wives, 10:1-17. 

3. List of the transgressors, 10:18-44. 

VI. Nehemiah’s First Term as Governor of Judea, Neh. 1:1 to 12:47. 

A. Nehemiah’s return to Jerusalem, 1:1 to 2:11. 

1. Nehemiah receives word of conditions at Jerusalem, 1:1-4. 

2. Nehemiah’s prayer, 1:5-11. 

3. Artaxerxes grants Nehemiah’s request to return to Jerusalem and rebuild its walls, 2:1-8. 

4. Nehemiah’s arrival; first indications of difficulties, 2:9-11. 

B. The rebuilding of the walls, 2:12 to 6:19. 

1. Nehemiah’s inspection of the wall at night, 2:12-16. 

2. An appeal for action encounters approval and objection, 2:17-20. 

3. The distribution of 42 building groups, 3:1-32. 

4. Various unsuccessful attempts to halt Nehemiah’s work, 4:1-23. 

5. Social reforms carried out during Nehemiah’s first period of governorship, 5:1-19. 

6. Further attempts to stop the building; completion of the wall, 6:1-19. 

C. Nehemiah plans to repopulate Jerusalem, 7:1-73. 

1. Organization of the city police, 7:1-3. 

2. Nehemiah plans a census preparatory to repopulating Jerusalem, 7:4, 5. 

3. List of returned exiles of Zerubbabel’s time serves as basis for the new census, 7:6-73. 

D. Religious reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah, 8:1 to 10:39. 

1. Reading of the law at a great national gathering, 8:1-13. 

2. Celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles, 8:14-18. 

3. A day of solemn repentance and confession, 9:1-38. 

4. A list of those who signed the covenant, 10:1-28. 

5. The contents of the covenant of reform, 10:29-39. 

E. The repopulation of Jerusalem carried out, 11:1-36. 

1. List of those who dwelt at Jerusalem, 11:1-19. 

2. List of cities of the province of Judea, 11:20-3 6. 

F. A list of the Temple personnel, 12:1-26. 

1. Priests and Levites of the time of Zerubbabel, 12:1-9. 

2. Genealogy of the high priests, 12:10, 11. 

3. Priests of the time of Joiakim, 12:12-21. 

4. Levites of the time of Eliashib, 12:22-26. 

G. The dedication of the wall, 12:27-43. 

H. The appointment of treasurers, 12:44-47. 

VII. Nehemiah’s Second Term as Governor of Judea, Neh. 13:1-31. 

A. Separation of Jews from foreigners, 13:1-3. 

B. The removal of Tobiah from the Temple, 13:4-9. 



C. Regathering of the Levites and reform in tithing and in the keeping of the Sabbath, 
13:10-22. 

D. Reform regarding foreign wives, 13:23-29. 

E. Concluding statement, 13:30,31. 

CHAPTER 1 

1 The proclamation of Cyrus for the building of the temple. 5 The people provide for the 
return. 7 Cyrus restoredi the vessels of the temple to Sheshbazzar. 

1. The first year. The city of Babylon fell to Persian amis on Tishri 16 (Oct. 12), 539 
B.c. (see p. 55), and Cyrus himself entered the city on Marcheshvan 3 (Oct. 29) of the 
same year. However, it was not until the next New Year’s Day, Nisan 1 (March 24), 538 
B.C., that the first Babylonian regnal year began. All documents previous to this day were 
dated in his “accession year” (see Vol. II, p. 138). The Jews, on the other hand, counted 
the regnal years of Persian rulers according to their own calendar. By the Jewish civil 
calendar the first full year from the fall of Babylon extended from the autumn of 538 to 
the autumn of 537 B.C. For further information on the problem, see pp. 96, 97. On the 
rulership of “Darius the Mede,” see p. 95, also Additional Note on Daniel 6. 

The edict of Cyrus for the return of the Jews seems to have been issued in the former 
capital city of the Medes, Ecbatana (Achmetha), which became one of the summer 
residences of the Persian kings. A copy of the decree found in the archives of Ecbatana 
some years later (Ezra 6:2) implies that Cyrus was there sometime during his first year. 
Evidence from the contemporary archives of the banking firm of “Egibi & Sons” in the 
city of Babylon indicates that Cyrus was in Ecbatana in or preceding the month of 
September, 537 B.c., which fell toward the close of the first full Jewish calendar year 
after the fall of Babylon. 

Cyrus. This is the Latinized Greek form of the Hebrew Koresh, which is closer to its 
Persian ( Kurush ) and Babylonian ( Kurash ) equivalents. 

Jeremiah. Reference is made here to the two prophecies of Jeremiah found in chs. 

25:11, 12; 29:10, prophecies which had convinced Daniel that the time of return and 
restoration had come (Dan. 9:2). Since the Babylonian captivity had begun in 605 B.C. 
(see on Dan. 1:1), the 70 years of Jeremiah’s prophecies were due to expire in 536, 
according to inclusive reckoning (see Vol. II, p. 136). Therefore if the decree of Cyras 
was issued in the summer or autumn of 537, and the Jews probably returned to their 
homeland in the spring of the following year, 536, this would fulfill the prophecies of 
Jeremiah (see pp. 96, 97). 

Stirred up the spirit. As in years past God had influenced heathen rulers (Gen. 20:3; 
Dan. 2:28; etc.) to carry out His purposes, He now worked on the heart of Cyrus to fulfill 
the prophecies of Isaiah concerning this monarch, prophecies that had been made more 
than 150 years earlier (Isa. 44:28; 45:1-4, 13). 

A proclamation. The decree was publicly proclaimed throughout the various satrapies 
of the empire, from the borders of India in the east to the Aegean Sea in the west, and 
from the Caucasus in the north to the Persian Gulf and the border of Egypt in the south. 

In writing. The decree was sent out in written form and deposited for permanent 
reference in an archive (see eh. 6:1,2). Writing had probably been introduced into Persia 
but recently, for archeological evidence shows that Persian records were kept beginning 
with the reign of Cyrus. The proclamation was presumably issued in the official Persian 



language, perhaps also in Babylonian, and probably in Aramaic, which was understood 
throughout the empire. The Behistun inscription of Darius I (see Vol. I, pp. 98, 110, 111; 
Vol. Ill, p. 57) consists of similar inscriptions in Old Persian, Elamite, and Babylonian. A 
copy has also been found in Aramaic. 

i 


Main Events of the Persian Empire and Judea H Main Events of the Persian Empire and Judea 


During the period covered bjr die books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther 


During the period covered by the books of Em, Nehemiah, and Esther 


540 B.C. 


530 B.C. 


520 B.C. 


5I0B.C. 


500 B.C. 


490 B.C. 


0B.C. 


470 B.C. 


460 B.C. 


FijhcofDjriiBAgjinsi 
Several Claimants to Throne 


Fall of Babylon 
to Cyrus 

539 B.C 


Beginnii 


522-520 BiC 

o( Conquest 
Qnbysei 


CYRUS CAMBYSES 




tofiic Revolt Efided by 
Naval Victory at Lade 
494 B.C. 


525 B.C| r-1 



Babylon Rebels 
City Destroyed 

”481X3 
Reconquest of 
Egypt by Xerxes 

*“*1 TOC ' 

—r c | 1 r 1 


DARIUS I 


Acbens Taken; Defat 
at Salami* (G-eccc| ^ 3 ^ 

Diiast-ous Defeat 
at Eurymedon 

445B.C] 


XERXES 


450 B.C. 

DcfcJit of Persians 
at Salamis (Cyprus) 


440 B.C. 


430 B.C. 420B.C. 


480 BC 7 

Rebellion 
of Egypt j 

483 B.C. 


igyptian Revolt, 
Quenched by 
Megabyzo* 


456-54 B.C | 


449 B C 

Revolt of 
Megibyzos 

1448 B.C. 


Nehemiah's first Term 
as Governor Ended 
(Neb. 514;, 

"■ffi&ej— 


ARTAXERXESI 


J I 

ST I- 


Darius the Mode 
(Dan, 5:30-6: 
HI) 


537'B,C. 
first Decree. 
Cyrus (Ezra 1:1)1 


536 BeC 

Return to Palestine 
under Zerubbabel; 
Temple Building Begun 


Buildmj 

by 


522 B.C. 


492 BC | 

First Atuck on 
Athens Fails 


Queen Vashti 
Rejected 
(Estkr I) I 


473 B.C, 

Planned Destruction 
ol Jews Turned 
into Victory 
(Esther 36.13:9:1) 


457 B.C.I 

Third Decree 
Artaxerxes I 
(Eira 7:7-11) 


515 B.C 

Temple Finished I 
and Dedicated I 
(Ezra 6:15) | 


479*78 B.C. 
Esther Chosen I 
as Queen 
(Esther 2:16) | 


Return Under Ezra; 
Reform Concerning 
Strange Wives 
(Ezra 10:9-11) 


I444B.C 
Nehemiah Appointed Governor; 
Building of Wall Resumed and 
Completed 
(Nch 2:1-4:23; 6:1-16) 


Nehemiah's Second 
Governorship 

(Neh. 13:6.7) 


520 &.C 


Enemies Partly Destroy 
Jerusalems Wall 
(Neh, 1:1 -3) 


Temple Building Resumed I 
Under Haggai and Zccharuhl 
(Era 5:1) 


2. Thus saith Cyrus. An official formula for introducing a royal proclamation, similar 
to those used in other royal decrees. For example, the Behistun inscription (Aramaic 
version, col. iii, 1. 37) reads, “Thus says king Darius.” 

King of Persia. Compare the ordinary formula in Persian inscriptions, “I am ..., the 
great king, the king of kings, the king of Persia.” 

The Lord God of heaven. Exactly the same title is found in an Aramaic petition made 
by Jews of the Nile island of Elephantine to a Persian governor (Cowley, Aramaic 
Papyri, No. 30, lines 27, 28), while in the reply of the Persian official to the petitioners, 
only the words “God of heaven” are used {ibid., No. 32, lines 3, 4). Jewish monotheism 
may have appealed to Cyrus if he was a Zoroastrian; he may have equated Yahweh with 
his own god Ahura-Mazda. 

Hath given me. Cyrus felt that he was an appointee of heaven, and that as such he 
had a divine commission to fulfill. In the famous inscription on the clay barrel of Cyrus, 
now in the British Museum, the king says, “He [the Babylonian god Marduk] scanned 
and looked [through] all the countries, searching for a righteous ruler willing to lead him 
[in the annual procession]. He pronounced the name of Cyrus, king of Anshan, declaring 


'Nichol, F. D. (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible 
with exegetical and expository comment. Commentary Reference Series (Ezr 1:1). 
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 





























































him to be the ruler of all the world.” These words, written for the Babylonians, are so 
similar to those used in the proclamation on behalf of the Jews that they, in combination 
with the other typical official terms used, constitute strong proof of the authenticity of the 
decree. The only difference consists in the names of the gods. In Babylonian 
proclamations the name of the Babylonian god Marduk was naturally used, while in one 
written for the Jews the name of their God was employed. 

He hath charged me. The word “he” is emphatic. This emphasis is also found in the 
ancient Greek and Latin translations of the text. Obviously, Cyrus makes reference to Isa. 
44:28. Josephus (.Antiquities xi. 1) claims that this passage was shown to Cyrus soon after 
Babylon’s fall, and it is only natural to consider Daniel as the one who informed the king 
concerning the predictions of Cyrus’ conquest of Babylonia and his part in the rebuilding 
of Jerusalem’s Temple (see PK 557). In the aforementioned clay barrel inscription Cyrus 
claims to have repatriated many foreign gods the Babylonians had transported to their 
capital, and rebuilt many sanctuaries that had been in ruins. In view of the fact that the 
authorization for the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem came in the first year of his 
reign, it is probable that the wisdom of such a policy (see PK 571, 572) led Cyrus to do 
the same for other subject peoples and their gods. Thus the king’s action with respect to 
the Jews and their Temple was completely in agreement with what eventually became a 
general policy of pleasing the nations that had suffered at the cruel hands of the 
Babylonians, in order to gain their good will and loyal support as citizens of the new 
Persian Empire. 

House. Heb. bayith, “house,” used of either a human dwelling or of one devoted to 
God. Bayith may therefore appropriately be translated “temple” here. 

In Judah. That this phrase is added here, and again in the following verse, reflects the 
official character of the document, which would be expected to indicate the precise 
geographical location of the Temple to be rebuilt. 

3. Of all his people. The permit to return was not limited to the exiles of Judah and 
Benjamin, the descendants of the subjects of the former kingdom of Judah taken captive 
by Nebuchadnezzar. It included all people who counted “the Lord God of heaven” (v. 2) 
as their God, particularly descendants of the ten tribes of the former northern kingdom of 
Israel, transplanted to various provinces of the Assyrian Empire in the 8th century B.C. 
According to 1 Chron. 9:3 members of at least some of the northern tribes were then 
living in Jerusalem. 

His God be with him. The kindness of Cyrus, praised by many classical authors 
(Aeschylus, Herodotus, Xenophon, Plutarch, Diodorus, Cicero, and others), is reflected in 
these words. Cyrus’ greatness lay in his tolerance of, and greatheartedness toward, 
subject peoples. The influence of Daniel and the Isaiah prediction concerning him no 
doubt had much to do with the formation of his imperial policies (see PK 557). 

He is the God. Commentators and Bible translators are divided in regard to the 
meaning of this clause and the one following it. Some have taken it to be an admission by 
Cyrus that Jehovah is the only true God, and have compared it to a similar confession by 
Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 6:26). Others connect it with the following clause and read, “He is 
the God who is in Jerusalem.” This would make Cyrus consider Jehovah as merely a 
local deity. 



By treating “he is the God” as a parenthetical expression and translating ’asher as 
“which,” the thought is conveyed that the clause, “which is in Jerusalem” refers back to 
the word “temple.” The Hebrew, however, clearly reads, “he is the God which is in 
Jerusalem,” as do also the LXX, the Vulgate, and other ancient versions. If parentheses 
are to be used at all, they must enclose the entire statement as a unit. Furthermore, the 

word ’asher may be translated either “which” or “who,” as required by the context. 

It may be that, like Nebuchadnezzar (Dan. 2:47; 3:28; 4:37) and Darius (Dan. 6:26), 
Cyrus had come to recognize the true God (see PK 557); but the Hebrew text, at least as 
we have it today, does not pennit the words of Ezra 1:3 to be construed as proof of this. 

A document has been found in which Cyrus, in addressing himself to the Babylonians, 
speaks of their god Mardulc in precisely the same terms he here uses of the God of the 
Jews. However, see PK 557. 

4. Whosoever remaineth. That is, Jews who chose to remain in exile (see PK 559). 
Those who were successfully established in business enterprises of one kind or another 
would be most likely to remain. It was only right that they should assist their returning 
brethren with large contributions. 

The freewill offering. Permission was granted the Jews to collect financial 
contributions from their heathen friends for the Temple to be built in Jerusalem. It is 
noteworthy that the public pronouncement of Cyrus’ decree contains this appeal to the 
citizens of the empire without mentioning the fact that Cyrus had made provision for the 
rebuilding of the Temple from public funds, as is stated in the copy of the decree 
deposited in the government archives at Ecbatana (see on ch. 6:2). The reason is obvious. 
Had the proclamation mentioned the royal subsidy, few people would have felt impressed 
to give to the enterprise themselves. Without knowing that the government was paying 
part of the cost, many heathen who were friendly disposed toward the Jews may have 
been more willing to make private contributions. 

5. Chief of the fathers. These were the hereditary heads of families, whose authority 
was recognized (see on Ex. 3:16). Although the pennit to return had been so worded as to 
include all believers in Jehovah, only the two tribes, Judah and Benjamin, are specifically 
mentioned. Members of other tribes, if any, must have been in the minority. 

Whose spirit God had raised. Only a comparative minority of the exiles returned. 
Even many of the clans of Judah and Benjamin chose to remain in the land of their 
adoption. Many had come to honor and wealth in Babylonia, as cuneiform records reveal, 
and were unwilling to forsake all they had acquired by hard labor through the years in 
exchange for an uncertain future in desolate Judea. It is for this reason that later on efforts 
were again made to lead back to Judea others who had remained behind in the initial 
return movement (see Ezra 7:7; Zech. 6:10). The first company willing to risk all for their 
country and for their God was composed of patriots and zealots; perhaps also of some 
who had nothing to lose by the move and who could only improve their lot by returning 
to their former homeland. Those who remained behind may have justified their decision 
by quoting Jeremiah’s admonition of more than half a century earlier, to build houses, 
plant fields, found families, and take an active interest in the welfare of their land of exile 
(Jer. 29:4—7). Those who declined to return to Palestine formed the nucleus of the strong 
and influential Jewish communities that existed in Babylonia throughout its successive 
history until very recent times. 



7. The vessels. All vessels listed are of gold and silver. Since many Temple objects 
taken by Nebuchadnezzar were of bronze (2 Kings 25:14; see on Ex. 25:3), Cyrus 
evidently restored only those that had been dedicated to Babylonian deities and thus 
preserved since their arrival from Jerusalem more than half a century earlier. It seems that 
objects not made of precious metals had not been preserved. 

This generous act on the part of Cyrus was not an isolated case. The king relates in 
the inscription of the afore-mentioned clay barrel in the British Museum (see on v. 2), 
that he returned to their rightful places many cult objects previously plundered by the 
Babylonians. 

8. Mithredath. A Persian name that also appears as Mitradati in a cuneiform 
document of the time of Artaxerxes I. 

Treasurer. Heb. gizbar, “treasurer,” found only here and in eh. 7:21. Gizbar is a 

Persian loan word found also in Babylonia in the form, ganzabaru. The use of this and 
other words of Persian origin in the book of Ezra indicates that the original document was 
written in the time of the Persian Empire, probably by a contemporary of the events 
described. 

Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. Sheshbazzar, called “governor” in eh. 5:14, is 
identified by many scholars with Zerubbabel (see chs. 3:8; 5:16; EGW, RH, March 28, 
1907). He is called a “prince of Judah,” a dignity that Zerubbabel, as a grandson of King 
Jehoiachin, also possessed (1 Chron. 3:17-19). It was not unusual for Jewish nobles in 
exile to bear two names (see Dan. 1:7). The name Sheshbazzar is thought to be from the 

Babylonian Shamash-abal-usur. 

9. Thirty. It will be noted that the itemized list of Temple utensils given in vs. 9, 10 
adds up to 2,499 rather than 5,400, the figure given in v. 11. It is possible that the 
itemized list is only partial, and that it was not intended by Ezra to add up to the total 
given. However, the last item on the list appears to include all other utensils not already 
listed, and should, presumably, make up the difference between the total of the preceding 
items and the grand total of all of them. All the ancient Hebrew MSS and versions agree 
with the figures as given in the KJV. It is worthy of note, however, that a parallel passage 
in the Apocryphal book of 1 Esdras (eh. 2:13, 14) avoids this seeming discrepancy by 
listing 1,000 “golden cups” instead of the 30 given here, and 2,410 “vials ... of silver” 
instead of only 410, as in v. 10. Otherwise the figures are the same. The grand total as 
given in 1 Esdras 2:14 is 5,469, the sum of the figures for the various items as given 
there. Some have suggested that the figures in 1 Esdras were deliberately altered to avoid 
the seeming discrepancy in Ezra 1:9-11. All that can be said is that evidence is 
insufficient to provide a definite solution to the problem. 

Charges. Heb. ’agartelim, “baskets,” a word of uncertain meaning. The LXX, 
Vulgate, and Syriac offer the translation “basin,” which has been adopted by various 
modem versions. 

Knives. Heb. machalaph, a word found only here in the OT and of uncertain 
meaning. The context suggests that some sort of vessel is meant. 

10. Basons. Heb. kaphor, “bowl,” or “bason,” as also in Ezra 8:27 and 1 Chron. 
28:17. The related Akkadian word kaparu also means “bowl.” 



11. All the vessels. See on v. 7. Probably many of these “vessels” were among those 
that Belshazzar profaned at the feast the night Babylon fell (Dan. 5:3). The irreverent use 
of these sacred utensils and the defiant spirit that prompted such an act gave visible 
evidence of the fact that Babylon would no longer respond to divine messages of 
guidance and that it would refuse to release the Jewish captives in order that they might 
return to their homeland as God planned that they should (Dan. 5:1-4, 21-23). 
Accordingly, the kingdom passed to a nation that would cooperate with the divine plan 
(vs. 25-31). 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1-4PK558 
2, 3 TM 203 
5 PK 599 
5-11PK559 


CHAPTER 2 

1 The number that return, of the people, 36 of the priest, 40 of the Levetis, 43 of the 
Nethinims, 55 of Solomon’s servants, 62 of the priests which could not shew their 
pedigree. 64 The whole number of them, with their substance. 68 Their oblations. 

1. Children of the province. While the city of Babylon was one of the capitals of the 
Persian Empire, and its land a satrapy under the administration of a satrap, Judah was a 
province. The use of this expression is evidence of the familiarity of the writer with the 
political situation of that time. 

Every one unto his city. Upon their return the exiles not only settled in Jerusalem but 
also in neighboring towns and villages, such as Jericho, Tekoa, Gibeon, Mizpah, and a 
number of others (see Neh. 3:2-19; 11:20-35). 

2. Zerubbabel. The political leader of the returning exiles. In ch. 3:2 and elsewhere he 
is called the son of Shealtiel. In 1 Chron. 3:19, however, he is listed among the sons of 
Pedaiah, a brother of Shealtiel. This seeming discrepancy can be explained by assuming a 
levirate marriage (see on Deut. 25:5-10) between Shealtiel’s childless widow and his 
brother Pedaiah, whose first male child by such a marriage would be considered the heir 
of Shealtiel (see on Matt. 1:12). Zerubbabel, though actually the son of Pedaiah, is called 
the son of Shealtiel in a majority of the passages that refer to him. The fact that in the 
only place where Zerubbabel is called Pedaiah’s son, Shealtiel appears without children, 
though older than his brother Pedaiah, supports the theory of a levirate marriage. 

Haggai (ch. 1:1) speaks of Zerubbabel, a grandson of King Jehoiachin, as governor of 
Judah. Cyrus thus appointed the descendant of a former king of Judah to rule in the name 
of the Persian king, a choice with which Cyrus could expect the Jews to be pleased. They 
would naturally accord more willing service to one of their own princes than to a 
foreigner. 

Jeshua. Yeshua‘ is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew name usually translated 
“Joshua.” This Jeshua was the spiritual leader of the returning exiles, the “high priest” of 
Haggai 1:1 and Zech. 3:1, and is referred to also in Ezra 3:2; Neh. 12:1; etc. He was a 
direct descendant of Aaron, through his father Jozadak, high priest at the time of 
Nebuchadnezzar’s captivity (1 Chron. 6:3-15; Ezra 3:2). Jeshua was probably born in 
exile, since he lived to see the completion of the Temple 20 years after the return to 
Jerusalem. 



Thus, two men of the old Jewish nobility led out in the restoration of Judah, one a 
descendant of the former reigning house as the appointed political leader, and the other a 
son of the last precaptivity high priest as spiritual head. Their names may have been 
suggested to Cyrus by a trusted counselor, such as Daniel, and both were no doubt chosen 
because of sterling character and because they enjoyed the confidence of their people. 

Nehemiah. The function of the other ten leaders here enumerated is unknown, 
inasmuch as their names do not appear again except in the duplicate list of Neh. 7. They 
may have been the elders mentioned frequently in later passages (see eh. 5:5, 9; etc.). 

The number of the men. The following list of exiles shows the importance attached 
by the Jews to ancestral lists. Though transported to Babylonia under the most miserable 
conditions imaginable, many had apparently succeeded in preserving their genealogical 
documents. Some, however, had not been so successful, and could not prove their 
pedigree, (v. 59). 

The numbers of persons in the various family groups here given differ slightly from 
those of a duplicate list Nehemiah used almost a century later to guide him in the 
resettlement of Jerusalem. Of the 42 numbers given by Ezra (vs. 3-60), 18 differ from the 
corresponding numbers in Neh. 7. The differences are small, and can be explained by 
assuming that the lists were drawn up at different times, and that during the interval the 
population figures varied, owing to deaths and births, or for other reasons. 

3. Children ofParosh. Or, “sons ofParosh.” The large family unit ofParosh, with 
2,172 men, stands first, as it does again in the corresponding list of Neh. 7. The name 
Parosh means “flea.” It is unknown how the family came to adopt this name, but it is a 
fact that Arab tribal heads frequently bear animal names such as lizard, gazelle, 
shrewmouse, etc. Similarly, a Jewish tribal head may have taken the name “flea,” a name 
David figuratively assumed after having spared Saul’s life at the cave of Engedi, 
expressing his own humility in Saul’s presence (1 Sam. 24:14; 26:20). 

4. Shephatiah. An old family, whose name means “Jehovah has judged.” This name 
appears frequently from the time of David onward. 

5. Arah. This name, meaning “He has wandered,” is attested but once elsewhere, as 
that of a man of the tribe of Asher (1 Chron. 7:39). However, the name is found in 
Babylonian documents, and may have been adopted during the Exile. 

6. Pahath-moab. The largest family unit, with 2,812 men. The name means 
“governor of Moab,” implying that a fonner family head had governed Moab when that 
country was subject to Judah. 

7. Elam. This name is attested in 1 Chron. 8:24; 26:3. 

8. Zattu. Nothing is known of this or the following name, Zaccai (v. 9). 

10. Bani. This name appears in Hebrew records since the time of David (2 Sam. 
23:36). 

11. Bebai. A Babylonian name. This family was either newly founded or had 
exchanged its fonner name for a Babylonian one during the Exile. 

12. Azgad. The name is found nowhere else. The greatest numerical difference in the 
lists of Ezra and Nehemiah occurs here, Ezra giving the number as 1,222, and Nehemiah 
(eh. 7:17) 2,322. A later copyist may be responsible for this seeming discrepancy. 

13. Adonikam. The name attested only here means “My Lord is risen.” 

14. Bigvai. A Persian name; the Bagoas in Greek records. A Persian governor by that 
name ruled over Judah toward the end of the 5th century B.C. This large family of 2,056 



men returning with Zerubbabel may have taken the name Bigvai in honor of the Persians. 
This family may have come from an area bordering on Persia, and may have favored 
Persian policy. The Jews have always been very adaptable. 

15. Adin. The names in vs. 15-19 are all Hebrew, but the persons are otherwise 
u nkn own. 

20. Gibbar. After the 17 tribal units enumerated in vs. 3-19, 15 groups follow, 
classified according to cities or villages. The location of Gibbar is unknown. Nehemiah’s 
list has Gibeon here (Neh. 7:25). 

21. Beth-lehem. In Judah, south of Jerusalem, now called Beit Lahm. 

22. Netophah. A town near Bethlehem whose exact location is u nkn own. It is also 
not clear why the people of Netophah, Anathoth, Michmas, Bethel, and Ai (vs. 23, 27, 

28) are called “men,” and all others “children,” or “sons.” 

23. Anathoth. A Levitical city in Benjamin, now Ras el-Kharrubeh near ‘Andta, 3 
mi. (4.8 km.) northeast of Jerusalem. It was formerly the home town of the prophet 
Jeremiah (Jer. 1:1). On the tenn “men,” see on v. 22. 

24. Azmaveth. A town north of Anathoth, now called Hizmeh. 

25. Kirjath-arim. Usually called Kirjath-jearim, now Tell el-Azhar, about 71/2 mi. 
(12 km.) west-northwest from Jerusalem. 

Chephirah. Now Tell Kefireh , north of Kirjath-jearim. 

Beeroth. On the road leading from Jerusalem to the north. Beeroth has been 
tentatively identified with Ras et-Tahuneh, near Bethel. 

26. Rarnah. Probably er-Ram, 51/2 mi. (8.8 fan.) north of Jerusalem. 

Cuba. Or, Geba, known today as Jeba‘, east of Ramah (see on 1 Sam. 13:3). 

27. Michmas. Now Mukhmas, northeast of Gaba. On the tenn “men,” see on v. 22. 

28. Beth-el. Now Beitm. On the term “men,” see on v. 22. 

Ai. Ai has been identified with et-Tell east of Bethel, where excavations were carried 
on from 1933 to 1935. The identification is probably correct as regards postexilic Ai, 
although its correctness in regard to Joshua’s Ai is doubted (see on Joshua 7:2). 

29. Nebo. Now Nuba , near Aijalon, which lies about 12 mi. west-northwest of 
Jerusalem. 

30. Magbish. An unknown locality in central Palestine. 

31. The other Elam. In view of the fact that an Elam is mentioned among the families 
(v. 7), it is uncertain whether a locality or a family is here designated. 

32. Harim. This name has also been generally considered that of a tribal unit rather 

than of a locality. A personal name, Harimma appears in Babylonian records of the 5th 
century, indicating that this family was one of those that adopted foreign names during 
the Exile. 

33. Lod, Hadid, and Ono. These three places lay 25 mi. (40 km.) northwest of 
Jerusalem. Lod is called Lydda in the NT, and now bears the name of Ludd. Hadid, now 



el-Haditheh , lay about 31/2 mi. (5.6 km.) east-northeast of Lod, while Ono, now Kefr 

‘Ana, lay about 5 mi. (8 km.) north of Lod. 

34. Jericho. This city lay in the Jordan valley and has generally been identified with 
Tell es-Sultan, adjoining modem Jericho (see Vol. I p. 124; Vol. II, p. 42). 

35. Senaah. It is interesting to find at the close of all nonecclesiastical families and 
city groups the largest unit of all—3,630 men—with the strange name “children of 
Senaah.” That this group is mentioned last may indicate that it was considered less 
important than the others. Because of its feminine ending the name has been thought to 
represent a town but that so large a town should have existed without ever being 
mentioned elsewhere would be most unusual. How could such a place have disappeared 
without leaving any trace of its former existence? For this reason some commentators 
consider it to be the name of a family unit. But if so, why should it be mentioned alone, at 
the end of a number of city groups, in spite of its great number? It therefore seems 
reasonable to consider that the 3,630 “children of Senaah” were a class of low-caste 
people, as Meyer and Kittel have suggested. The name Senaah appears also in variant 
forms in Neh. 11:9 and 1 Chron. 9:7. 

Settlements of the Persian Province of Judah 
According to Ezra and Nehemiah 


2 Nichol, F. D. (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible 
with exegetical and expository comment. Commentary Reference Series (Ezr 1:2). 
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 




U. Mfrft 


Beeroth 


Jerusalem 

Jericho 


Keilah Bethlehem 


Hebron 


Note 


Azekah 




Adullam 


Lachish 




t&rab. 


Beer-sheba 






The exact extent of the restored province of Judah is unknown. However, the cities and 
towns listed in Ezra and Nehemiah, plotted on a map, provide an approximate idea of the 
boundaries. Compare this territory with the area fortified by Rehoboam (see Invasion of 
Sennacherib) and with the kingdom of Hezekiah’s time (see The Province of Judah in 
Nehemiah’s Time). The bold lines represents the main highways through this area. 


Some think it possible that this name was given to people who could not prove their 
ancestry, and did not belong to a professional guild, such as the apothecaries or 
goldsmiths (Neh. 3:8, 31). They seem to have been men without an established place in 
society, with neither pedigree nor inherited rights. A common lot united them. They may 
not have fared well in Babylonia, and perhaps returned in great numbers with the hope of 
better opportunities in Palestine. 

36. The priests. Of the priests, four families with a total of 4,289 men returned to 
Jerusalem, and three additional families that could not prove their eligibility (vs. 61-63). 
Three of the legitimate priestly families traced their descent back to persons who had 
been heads of priestly courses during the reign of David, namely Jedaiah, limner, and 
Harim (1 Chron. 24:7, 8, 14). The other family originated from a certain Pashur, of whom 


3 Nichol, F. D. (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible 
with exegetical and expository comment. Commentary Reference Series (Ge 1:1). 
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 








nothing further is known. No Biblical person who bore this name can have been the 
ancestor of this family. 

The four priestly families mentioned in this list of exiles were still the main 
representatives of the priesthood in Ezra’s time, 80 years later, when all four are 
mentioned in the list of those who had taken strange wives (Ezra 10:18-22). 

40. The Levites. It is surprising to find the lower ecclesiastical workers returning in 
such small numbers—only 74 Levites, 128 singers, 139 gatekeepers, and 392 other 
Temple servants—a total of 733 men as compared with more than 4,000 priests who 
returned. 

From the history of the kingdom of Judah we know that the Temple service had, at 
times, fallen into decay, and that many of the Temple personnel had been connected with 
the pagan high places (see on Judges 5:18) that had been established throughout the 
country. All of these were destroyed by Josiah as a part of his work of reform (2 Kings 
23:5, 8, 13), and their priests taken to Jerusalem. But a place in the sanctuary and at the 
altar of the Temple was denied them, and they were apparently allowed to perform only 
the most menial tasks (see on 2 Kings 23:9). 

Ezekiel refers to the misconduct of the Temple personnel prior to the Exile, but the 
Zadok priests seem to have remained at least comparatively free from idolatry, and, in the 
service of the Temple shown him in vision, were to have served as priests. Their Levitical 
brethren were to be allowed to perform only menial duties in the new Temple. The 
Levites could thus not expect positions of honor, and most of them may therefore have 
preferred to remain in exile. 

Another possible reason for the small number of returning Levites may have been that 
relatively few of them had been taken into exile. Nebuchadnezzar at first deported only 
the higher officers, the nobility, and the armed forces. The Levites did not belong to any 
of these classes—at least not since the time of Josiah—and may therefore not have been 
deported in so great numbers as the priests. If but few Levites were in exile, the number 
of those returning would also be small. 

41. The singers. A special class of Levites. Only one family is represented, that of 
Asaph, one of the leading musicians in the time of David (1 Chron. 6:39, 43; 16:5, 6). 
What had become of the descendants of the other musical directors mentioned in the titles 
of the Psalms and other Bible passages is not known. 

42. Porters. Another profession known since the time of David. The Temple, with its 
many halls, gates, and courts, particularly upon the occasions of annual feasts, required a 
special police force to maintain order and security. 

43. The Nethinims. The word thus translated is from the root nathan, “to give,” and 
means “given ones,” probably in the sense of being devoted, or dedicated to the 
sanctuary. Since the time of Joshua (Joshua 9:27), foreigners had been used for the most 
menial type of work in the Temple service. To this group of Temple servants prisoners of 
war may have been added from time to time (see Ezra 8:20). The returning Nethinims 
belonged to 35 families. 

55. Solomon’s servants. King Solomon had apparently increased the service 
personnel of the Temple, inasmuch as the new buildings required much more attention (1 
Kings 9:20, 21; 2 Chron. 8:7, 8). As the lowest rank of ecclesiastical workers, they are 
here mentioned last. They lived in separate towns, or in their own quarters in Jerusalem, 
and, though not Israelites, had agreed to keep the whole law (see Neh. 10:29-31). The 



Deuteronomic law required that they be considered a part of the congregation of Israel 
(Deut. 29:10-13; Ex. 20:10) and be treated as such. Ten families of “Solomon’s servants” 
returned with Zerubbabel. 

58. All the Nethinims. The Nethinims (vs. 43-54) and “Solomon’s servants” (vs. 55- 
57) were apparently so closely related in origin and work that their number is given as if 
they were one group. A total of 45 families is represented, averaging eight men each. It is 
thus apparent that their family units were, for some unknown reason, much smaller than 
those of the full-blooded Jews. Later, at the time of Ezra, 220 more Nethinims returned 
(eh. 8:20). Reports must have reached Babylonia that those who returned under 
Zerubbabel had found good positions in the Temple service, and many more became 
willing to sever their connections with Mesopotamia and return to Palestine. 

59. Tel-melah. The locations of all four Mesopotamian places mentioned in this text 
are u nkn own. From these four places came 652 men (v. 60) belonging to three family 
groups which could not give proof that they were descendants of fonner Jews. If their 
forebears had been legitimate inhabitants of Judah at the time of Nebuchadnezzar, they 
may perhaps have received especially rough treatment, either during the journey to 
Babylonia or as slaves after their arrival, and had consequently lost all identifying 
documents (see on v. 2). 

61. Priests. Three returning families claimed to belong to the priesthood but were 
unable to present valid credentials. Admission to priestly office was denied them by the 
governor until a high priest would be able to procure a divine decision by means of the 
Urirn and Thummim. It is strange that the number of these priests is not given either in 
this list or in that of Neh. 7. 

Koz. It is possible that this family was later able to establish its priestly rights, 
because we find a certain “Meremoth the son of Urijah, the son of Koz” taking part in the 
building of the city wall in Nehemiah’s time (Neh. 3:4, 21). Ezra (eh. 8:33) simply calls 
him “Meremoth the son of Uriah the priest.” The members of this family seem either to 
have found their credentials or to have secured other evidence that their ancestors were 
priests, or, the Urim and Thummim had revealed God’s will with respect to them. 

63. The Tirshatha. From the Persian tarshta, an honorific title for the governor of a 
province, equivalent to “His Excellency.” Its literal meaning is, “the feared one.” 

Urim and ... Thummim. See on Ex. 28:15, 30. Zerubbabel evidently anticipated that 
the power of obtaining direct answers from God by means of the Urim and Thummim, 
which had existed in pre-exilic times, would be restored as soon as the new congregation 
was re-established and the services of the Temple reinstituted. Whether his expectations 
were fulfilled is not known. 

64. The whole congregation. The sum total of all the figures given in the preceding 
verses is 29,818, while the total number of returning exiles is given as 42,360. It is thus 
evident that besides the men enumerated in detail another 12,542 must have followed. 
Since the number 12,542 is too large for the three families of priests whose numbers were 
not given (see on v. 61), the suggestion that they were women must be considered a 
possible solution to the problem. Their relatively small number—in comparison with the 
number of returning men—can be explained by assuming that many men left their 
families with relatives in Babylonia until homes could be provided for them in Palestine. 
Presumably, the women were then to follow their husbands in a later caravan as soon as 
the situation in Palestine should make the trip advisable. Since, in the following verses, 



maidservants as well as menservants are counted, and female singers as well as their male 
colleagues, it seems certain that the wives of free citizens were not omitted from the 
count. Hence, we are to understand the 42,360 individuals listed as the total number of all 
returning citizens, men, women, and ecclesiastical personnel. 

65. Beside their servants. After the enumeration of all Jews and also of those who 
claimed to belong to the congregation, 7,337 male and female slaves are mentioned. That 
they were not Jews is evident not only from their social position but also from the place 
they receive in this list—after the total of the “whole congregation” has been presented. It 
is surprising to find that in the 50 years of their captivity some of the Jews had improved 
their social standing to the extent that they had acquired slaves—one to every sixth Jew. 

Singing men and singing women. Some have thought that these non-Jewish artists 
were to swell the comparatively small number of Levitical singers (see on v. 41). This is, 
however, unlikely. Some commentators consider them secular entertainers. When the 
Israelites left Egypt about 1,000 years earlier a “mixed multitude” of non-Israelites also 
went up with them (Ex. 12:38), and in the wilderness became a cause of much trouble 
(Num. 11:4). It would not be surprising to find that in leaving Babylonia the Jews were 
accompanied by a similar group. 

66. Their horses. A total number of 8,136 riding animals and beasts of burden is 
listed as accompanying the expedition. Since the group desired to travel rapidly, the 
returning group took no sheep, goats, or cattle. Those who possessed such animals in 
Babylonia probably sold them and took the money with them. 

68. When they came. The writer passes over the journey in silence (see on Gen. 24:7, 
62), though it must have taken several weeks. The route is not mentioned, although the 
topography of the Near East leaves few uncertainties in this respect (see on Gen. 12:5). 
The caravan probably followed the banks of the Euphrates up to the 36th parallel, or went 
through the fonner homeland of Assyria to Arbela, and then followed the approximate 
course of the present Syro-Turkish border till they reached the Euphrates. From there, the 
desert between the Euphrates and the Orontes River was crossed, with the Aleppo oasis 
as a stopping place, midway across the desert. Reaching the Orontes, they probably 

followed this river up to its source, and then marched through the Beqa‘, the valley 
between the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon mountain ranges, until they reached the upper 
course of the Jordan, and so entered Palestine. This was the route that most military 
forces of the Assyrians and Babylonians had taken in the past and that the captive parents 
and grandparents of this group apparently traversed in the opposite direction half a 
century earlier (see Jer. 39:5-7; 52:9, 10, 27). 

The time of departure was probably the spring of 536 B.C. (see on ch. 1:1), and 
perhaps Jerusalem was reached in the summer of the same year. Eighty years later it took 
Ezra and his caravan almost four months to reach Jerusalem (chs. 7:8, 9; 8:31), and it is 
reasonable to think that Zerubbabel’s journey lasted as long as that of Ezra. 

Offered freely. Arriving at the site of the fonner Temple, the members of the 
expedition conducted a thanksgiving service in which the heads of families and the 
people offered gifts for the planned reconstruction of the Temple building to the sum of 
61,000 drams of gold and 5,000 silver minas. 

This was a most remarkable sum for a group of people who had but recently regained 
liberty. A spirit of liberality must have taken hold of them like that which gripped the 
people at the building of the tabernacle at Sinai (see Ex. 36:5-7). They knew how God 



had fulfilled His promises through the prophets, and were willing to make a sacrifice to 
re-establish the Temple and its service. 

God has ever provided His people with opportunities to give of the means entrusted to 
them. There is no better cure for the spirit of selfishness that naturally infects the human 
heart than to respond “freely” to calls to advance the cause of God in the earth and to help 
their fellow men. Those who tally love God will cultivate the spirit of liberality (see 2 
Cor. 9:6, 7). 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

64, 65 PK 598 
64-70PK 560 


CHAPTER 3 

1 The altar is set up. 4 Offerings frequented. 7 Workmen prepared. 8 The foundations of the 
temple are laid in great joy and mourning. 

1. The seventh month. Shortly after their arrival in Palestine, probably in the summer 
of 536 B.C., the newly returned exiles assembled at Jerusalem to inaugurate the new 
Temple service. This gathering took place at the end of the 6th month, as a comparison of 
v. 1 with v. 6 shows. The 7th month (Tishri) was one of the most sacred months of the 
entire Jewish religious year. The 1st day of that month was New Year’s Day of the civil 
calendar (see Vol. II, p. 110). The month began with a blowing of trumpets and a holy 
convocation (Lev. 23:24; see Vol. II, p. 106). Ten days later came the solemn Day of 
Atonement (Lev. 23:27), followed almost immediately by the Feast of Tabernacles, from 
the 15th to the 22d day of the same month (Lev. 23:34-36). 

The people gathered. The people were prepared to stay long enough to celebrate the 
Feast of Tabernacles (v. 4), one of the three great feasts every Jew was required to 
observe in Jerusalem (Ex. 23:14; Lev. 23:2; Deut. 16:16). 

2. Jeshua. Concerning Jeshua and Zerubbabel, see on eh. 2:2. 

Builded the altar. The old Temple area must have been surveyed, and the place 
ascertained where the altar of burnt offering had originally been located. On that sacred 
spot a new altar was built. The altar was the center of Jewish worship, and services could 
not be carried on without it. The altar must have been completed by the last day of the 6th 
month (see v. 6). 

As it is written. Under the leadership of men like Daniel and Ezekiel the exiles had 
detennined to start from the beginning to worship God according to His expressed will, 
and not again fall into the sins of indifference and idolatry, on account of which they and 
their fathers had had to suffer so much. Reference is probably here made to Lev. 17:2-6 
and Deut. 12:5-7, where God explicitly commands the Israelites to offer their sacrifices 
only at the place He would select for that purpose. That place was Jerusalem (1 Kings 
9:3). 

3. His bases. Rather, “its place” (RSV), meaning that the altar was erected on the 
exact spot where Solomon’s altar of burnt offering had stood. 

Fear was upon them. Although the people had but recently returned from Babylonia, 
they were already aware of the hostility of their neighbors, who were not a little 
displeased that the Jews had now returned to their homeland. The surrounding people 
may have occupied some parts of Judea during the Exile, and were now asked to return 
these to their rightful owners. Naturally, they looked with suspicion upon the Jews, who 
made it plain that henceforth no other worship than that of Jehovah would be tolerated. 



This hostility may already have been revealed in threats. Hence, the returning exiles 
assembled in Jerusalem in a state of fear. Though they had permission from Cyrus to 
raise up both their altar and their Temple, it was not at all certain that this could be 
accomplished without encountering serious opposition from the neighboring peoples. 
Cyrus had only recently come into possession of these areas, which had belonged to the 
Babylonian Empire, and he may have exercised only nominal control over them. 

Burnt offerings. As the law required (Ex. 29:38, 39; Num. 28:3, 4). 

4. Feast of tabernacles. The festival requirements of Lev. 23:33-42 were carefully 
observed. To live in tents or booths had a real and appropriate meaning this time. The 
feast was originally established as a memorial of the 40 years of desert wandering. Once 
more the people of God had been led back to their homeland from a foreign country, 
where they had been in exile; once more they were living in tents, until more permanent 
places of abode could be built. 

Daily burnt offerings. These offerings are not those mentioned in vs. 3 and 5, but 
pertained to the Feast of Tabernacles. The regulations concerning them are found in 
Num. 29:12-40. All particulars there enjoined were now carefully observed, as may be 
concluded from the record here given of the celebration. 

5. Continual burnt offering. This was doubtless the daily morning and evening 
sacrifice (Ex. 29:38M2; Num. 28:3-6). 

Both of the new moons. Literally, “and those of the new moons.” The reading in the 
KJV gives the impression that the continual burnt offerings pertained to the newmoon 
festival and the other set feasts, but this is not the meaning of the Hebrew text. The 
regulations for the feast of the new moon are found in Num. 28:11-15. 

The set feasts. See on Lev. 23:2. These were the other feasts such as the Passover, 
Feast of Weeks, and the Day of Atonement. 

Freewill offering. The custom of bringing freewill offerings was also reinstituted (see 
Lev. 1-3). Thus provision was made for all that was most essential in the practice of the 
Jewish religious ritual, although the Temple itself remained unbuilt for the time being. 

6. Seventh month. See on v. 1. 

7. Gave money. During the festive assembly discussions were held concerning the 
rebuilding of the Temple, and contracts were closed with artisans able to carry out the 
plans there laid. Many of the exiles had doubtless been employed by the Babylonians in 
building their palaces, temples, and fortifications. During the time of the Exile, 
particularly under Nebuchadnezzar, Babylon had witnessed tremendous activity, as the 
texts excavated there have shown. The professional skill acquired in Babylon now proved 
to be a great asset, and Zerubbabel set the masons and carpenters to work at their 
respective tasks, paying them regular wages in money. 

Meat. Literally, “food.” 

Zidon. The purchase of cedars from the Lebanon Mountains was made by contract 
with the Sidonians and Tyrians, with compensation in kind. Phoenicia was a narrow strip 
of coastland and had to import foodstuffs (see Acts 12:20; see also Vol. II, p. 68). 
Solomon had paid for the materials received from Hiram of Tyre with wheat, barley, 
wine, and oil (2 Chron. 2:15), and similar arrangement was now made by Zerubbabel. 
From the most ancient times the Lebanon region had furnished cedarwood for building 
palaces, temples, and other public buildings throughout the civilized countries of the Near 
East. 



That the Sidonians are mentioned before the Tyrians accords with the actual political 
situation under the Persian rale. Herodotus (vii. 96, 98; viii. 67) claims that in the time of 
Xerxes the king of Sidon possessed a higher rank than the king of Tyre. This condition 
probably existed before Xerxes’ time, and was due to the long siege of Tyre by 
Nebuchadnezzar. The result was a marked weakening of the economic strength and 
prestige of Tyre. Sidon profited by this situation and thereafter took the lead among the 
Phoenician city states (see Vol. II, p. 69). 

According to the grant. A special grant of Phoenician timber made by Cyras seems 
to be intended. Although outside of this remark we have no written evidence of such a 
grant, the provision made in the official decree, as later found in Ecbatana, to have the 
cost of the Temple paid from royal funds, apparently included the purchase of building 
material with public money. The food, drink, and oil must have been provided by the 
Persian administration, because the newly arrived Jews could hardly have found enough 
foodstuffs even for their own needs in the half-deserted country to which they had come. 

8. The second year. If the year of the Jews’ return was 536 B.c. (see on eh. 1:1), the 
second month of the second year would have fallen in the spring of 535 B.C. The months 
were numbered beginning with Nisan, the 1st month of the ecclesiastical year, even 
though the months so designated referred to the civil calendar, which began in the fall 
with Tishri, the 7th month (see Vol. II, p. 108). The phrase, “of their coming unto the 
house of God at Jerusalem,” shows clearly that the second year of their return is meant, 
and not the second year of Cyras’ reign, as some commentators have thought. 

The second month. Called Iyyar in the postexilic calendar. Some commentators think 
that this month was chosen for the beginning of building activities in order to coincide 
with the date chosen by Solomon for beginning the erection of the first Temple (1 Kings 
6:1). 

Zerabbabel. In v. 2 Jeshua, the high priest, is mentioned before Zerabbabel, the 
governor, because reference is made to a purely ecclesiastical affair, the beginning of the 
sacrificial service, in which the high priest naturally had primary authority. In connection 
with the rebuilding of the Temple, Zerabbabel, representing the authority of the state, is 
mentioned first. He was the official representative of the Persian king, who had issued the 
decree to rebuild the Temple; therefore it was his privilege and duty to lead out in the 
measures to be taken in carrying out the decree. 

Appointed the Levites. The few Levites who had returned (see on eh. 2:40) were 
appointed by the governor to supervise the workmen employed in rebuilding the Temple. 

From twenty years. In conformity with a custom that had existed at least since the 
time of David, that the Levites could serve only after reaching the age of 20 (1 Chron. 
23:24, 27; 2 Chron. 31:17). In Moses’ time they were not permitted to serve until the age 
of 25 (Num. 8:24). 

Set forward. That is, “supervised” or “had the oversight.” 

9. Jeshua. The supervision of the work was under three groups, probably arranged 
according to the population of the new province of Judea. Jeshua was the head of the 
priesthood, Kadmiel was spokesman for the tribe of Judah, and Henadad was apparently 
the leader of the lower rank of Temple personnel. 

10. Priests in their apparel. The priestly gannents which the people had recently 
provided (eh. 2:69) were designed “for glory and for beauty” according to the Mosaic law 
(Ex. 28:40). 



With trumpets. The blowing of trumpets was a priestly prerogative (Num. 10:8; 31:6; 
Joshua 6:4; 1 Chron. 15:24; 16:6; 2 Chron. 5:12), while cymbals were the musical 
instalments played by Levites (1 Chron. 15:16, 19; 16:5; 2 Chron. 5:12, 13; 29:25). 

After the ordinance of David. This ordinance is given in 1 Chron. 15:16-24. 
However, Zerubbabel’s musical service fell short of the “ordinance of David,” since it 
failed to provide for several instruments that were an essential part of David’s system. 
Apparently, the musical training of the Levites had been neglected during the Exile (see 
Ps. 137:2-4). 

11. They sang together by course. Or, “they sang responsively” (RSV), literally, 
“they replied [to each other].” The choir was divided into two groups that sang 
alternately, or antiphonally. 

Shouted. Shouting has always characterized occasions of joy and triumph, but is 
seldom mentioned in connection with religious affairs. One such exceptional occasion 
occurred when the ark of the covenant was taken to the Israelite camp near Aphek (1 
Sam. 4:5), another when David brought it up from Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 
6:15). Pious shouting is also mentioned in Ps. 47:5 and Zech. 4:7. 

12. Ancient men. It was only 50 years since the Temple of Solomon had been 
destroyed (586 B.C.) and 70 since the first captivity, and there were “many” older men in 
the congregation who had seen it in their youth, or childhood, and vividly remembered its 
grandeur and glory. They could not help crying when they thought of the modest plans 
for rebuilding the Temple. It was a “day of small things” (Zech. 4:10), and the new 
house, in comparison with the old one, appeared to be “nothing” (Haggai 2:3). Solomon 
had been able to employ the best workmen of his own country, which reached from the 
border of Egypt to the Euphrates, and the skill of neighboring lands, like that of the 
Tyrians. Zerubbabel had to depend on his own subjects, the few citizens of the small 
province of Judea. 

13. Noise of the weeping. Weeping in the Orient is not done silently, but with the 
utterance of shrill cries. 


ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1-6PK 560 

11.12 PK 563 

12 GC 23 

12.13 PK 564 

CHAPTER 4 

1 The adversaries, being not accepted in the building of the temple with the Jews, 
endeavour to hinder it. 7 Their letter to Artaxerxes. 17 The decree of Artaxerxes. 23 The 
building is hindered. 

1. The adversaries. Concerning their identity, see v. 2. Although they apparently 
came in a friendly guise, the historian saw them for what they really were, “adversaries,” 
literally, “enemies,” like Hainan (Esther 7:6) or Sanballat (Neh. 4:11). 

2. We seek your God. It was taie, in a sense, that they sought God, though not like the 
returned exiles. The Samaritans, inhabitants of the area formerly occupied by the 
kingdom of Israel, were mainly Aramaeans from Syria and Mesopotamia. They had a 
mixed religion of paganism and Jehovah worship (see 2 Kings 17:24-33). 

Since the days of Esar-haddon. Of a transplantation of people into the region of 
Samaria by Esarhaddon, who reigned over Assyria from 681-699 B.C., no information is 



available aside from this statement. However, the prophecy of Isa. 7:8—a prediction 
made about a decade before Samaria’s fall—to the effect that Ephraim would be broken 
within 65 years so “that it be not a people,” may refer to this transplantation. The 
fulfillment should therefore have taken place before 665 B.C., during Esarhaddon’s reign. 
It seems that a new uprising against Assyrian power among the remnants of the former 
Israelite kingdom must have occurred at that time, with the result that the Assyrians 
moved them out of the country and replaced them by contingents of foreigners, as Sargon 
II had done after the destruction of Samaria in 723/2 B.C. (2 Kings 17:24). Another, and 
even later, transplantation of people under “Asnapper” (Ashurbanipal) is mentioned in 
Ezra 4:10. 

3. Ye have nothing to do. From the sad experience of Babylonian exile, the Jews had 
learned one thing well—to resist the temptation to join idolaters in any kind of enterprise. 
Unfaithfulness to God had resulted from the unholy connections the pre—exilic Jews had 
made with other nations, and the end of this course of action had been disgrace and 
disaster. The Jews had therefore determined not to fall into that error again, a vow that, 
with few exceptions, postexilic Jewry rigorously kept. If anything, they went to the 
opposite extreme. 

The break with the Samaritans at this time proved final. The result was hatred and 
mutual aversion and contempt, which continued through the centuries (see Luke 9:52-54; 
John 4:9). 

4. Weakened the hands. Or, “discouraged” (RSV). Encouragement is spoken of as 
“strengthening the hands” (Ezra 6:22; Isa. 35:3; Jer. 23:14; etc.). The expression 
“weakening the hands” (see Jer. 38:4) occurs also in the so-called Lachish Letters, 
inscribed potsherds from Jeremiah’s time (see Vol. I, p. 125; Vol. II, p. 97). 

Troubled them. Since the “trouble” resulted in a cessation of work, it must have been 
fully effective. The hindering seems not to have been limited to threats, but was probably 
of a more serious nature. All the returned exiles lived in unfortified settlements, 
presumably in temporary houses or tents. The threats made against them, and occasional 
attacks on their property, may have been of such a nature that workmen not resident in 
Jerusalem found it necessary to remain at home to protect their families and property. 
Whatever course was followed by the enemies of the Jews, the later records make it clear 
that their actions were highly successful and that the work on the Temple ceased for 
many years. 

5. Hired counsellors. Although v. 5 leaves a number of questions unanswered, it is 
clear that certain royal advisers were bribed by the Samaritans to influence the king 
against the Jews. Daniel had presumably died—his last vision is dated in the 3d year of 
Cyrus (Dan. 10:1)—and his enemies (see Dan. 6:4) may have had more success 
influencing Cyrus against the Jews following his death. However, Cyrus seems to have 
neither revoked his decree nor issued one prohibiting the building of the Temple, because 
if such a counterdecree had been issued, the enemies of the Jews would have used it in 
the time of Darius. Moreover, Persian kings had a strong aversion to revoking a decree 
(see Dan. 6:8; 12; 15; Esther 8:8). 

6. Ahasuerus. Some commentators have identified the Ahasuerus of this verse with 
Cambyses, since his name appears in this chapter following events that took place in the 
time of Cyrus. Others have pointed out that the name “Ahasuerus” appears in ancient 
records only as that of the king known by the Greek name “Xerxes,” and have therefore 



placed the incompletely recorded event of this verse in the beginning of Xerxes’ reign. 

See Additional Note at the close of this chapter. 

An accusation. The enemies of the Jews, the Samaritans, made of the accession of a 
new king to the throne an opportunity to harm the Jews. Unfortunately, nothing is said as 
to the nature of these accusations or of their results (see above, on v. 5). That nothing is 
reported concerning an adverse decision of the king against the Jews may perhaps be 
interpreted to mean that the petition elicited an unfavorable reply, and that the Jews 
remained unmolested. 

7. Artaxerxes. Commentators who have identified the Ahasuerus of v. 6 with 
Cambyses, have seen in this Artaxerxes the false Smerdis, who ailed for about half a year 
in 522 B.C. and was killed by Darius I, who then took the throne. Others have identified 
the Artaxerxes of vs. 7-23 as the king known in history as Artaxerxes I. See Additional 
Note at close of this chapter. 

Bishlam. This name is not attested elsewhere; it is uncertain whether it is Persian or 
Semitic. Mithredath is a Persian name (see on ch. 1:8). Tabeel might be Semitic (cf. the 

Assyrian name Tab-ilu ; see also Isa. 7:6). The three men here named were probably 
Samaritan leaders. One at least, Mithredath, was a Persian, perhaps the governor, or 
possibly a Persian commissioner assisting a native governor by the name of Bishlam. 

In the Syrian tongue. Literally, “in Aramaic.” The words translated “interpreted in 
the Syrian tongue” can be rendered either as “set forth [in] Aramaic,” or “translated 
[from] Aramaic.” The meaning would be that the letter was written in the Aramaic square 
script, used for official correspondence throughout the Persian Empire, and either 
composed in the Aramaic language, or translated from Aramaic into another language, 
perhaps Persian. 

8. Rehum the chancellor. With v. 8 the first Aramaic section of Ezra begins. The 
document which the compiler of the book—perhaps Ezra himself—used, was apparently 
written in Aramaic from this point on and taken over without change. Rehum is a Semitic 
name borne also by several Jews in the days of Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:2) and Nehemiah 
(Neh. 3:17; 10:25; etc.). This name occurs also in the Aramaic papyri of Elephantine. It is 
not strange to find this name borne by a Samaritan, since many Samaritans were of 
Aramaean (Semitic) stock. The Aramaic word translated “chancellor” is also found in 
Jewish documents from Elephantine, and seems to mean “private secretary,” or 
“accountant,” being perhaps the title of the assistant governor. 

Shimshai. This name appears also in the Aramaic texts from Elephantine, as well as 
in Babylonian texts, in the form Shamshai , meaning “my sun.” His title, “scribe,” shows 
that the letter was actually written by him and that the previously mentioned Rehum had 
composed or dictated it. 

9. The Dinaites. The word thus translated, taken by the older translators as one 
representing a people, appears also in the Elephantine papyri, where its primary meaning 
is “judge” or “magistrate.” It is so translated in the RSV. 

The Apharsathchites. This word, found again in ch. 6:6, is taken by most modern 
commentators as the Aramaic or Persian term designating a certain class of officers, 
although an exact equivalent aside from these two instances is u nkn own. The same is taie 
of the “Tarpelites.” 

The Apharsites. This word either designates an unknown class of officers or should 
be vocalized (see Vol. I, pp. 25, 26) in Hebrew so as to read “Persians” (RSV). 



Archevites. People from the city of Erech (see on Gen. 10:10), now Warka, in 
southern Mesopotamia. 

Dehavites. The word thus translated, formerly thought to designate a people, should 
be vocalized so as to mean “that is” (see Vol. I, pp. 25, 26). The latter part of v. 9 then 
reads, “the men of Susa, that is, the Elamites” (RSV). 

10. Asnapper. A corrupt form of the name Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, 669-627? 
B.C. Of his deportation of inhabitants from Erech, Babylon, and Susa nothing is known 
from any other source. However, the bloody wars of Ashurbanipal against Babylon (652- 
648 B.C.) and Elam (date uncertain) are well attested from Assyrian records. As a result 
of these wars people from the cities mentioned were apparently deported to Samaria. 

This side the river. This is the first occurrence in the book of Ezra of the official 

name of the Persian satrapy inclusive of Syria and Palestine. Its Aramaic name ’Abar 

nahara’, “Beyond the River” (RSV), is found as Ebimari in the cuneiform inscriptions of 
that time. The name indicates its geographical location as comprising lands lying beyond 
the Euphrates, as thought of from the capitals of the Persian Empire. 

And at such a time. See on v. 17. 

12. Came up from thee. That is, from the land of Babylonia. 

Building the rebellious. The basis of this accusation lay in the various plots and 
revolts of the Jews against their Babylonian overlords, as described in 2 Kings 24 and 25. 
There had been other revolts against Assyria previously (2 Kings 18:7; 2 Chron. 33:11), 
but it is doubtful that the Samaritans knew of them. They would, however, be well 
informed concerning the repeated rebellions under the last three kings of Judah— 
Jehoiakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah—which had ended in shame and disgrace, and 
resulted in the destruction of Judah and the slavery of its inhabitants. Thus they had a 
plausible reason for charging that Jerusalem was a rebellious and wicked city. 

Set up the walls. From these words it appears that the accusation was directed against 
the building of the city wall, as again, later, in the time of Nehemiah. The Aramaic word 
translated “set up” literally means “completed.” This accusation was certainly 
exaggerated, as the next phrase refers to the foundations, and even more so the following 
verse. Hence, the work cannot have been nearly as complete as the Samaritans claimed. 

13. Then will they not pay. The conclusions drawn from the rebuilding of 
Jerusalem’s fortifications were plausible. History knows of many examples of a city 
refusing to pay tribute to its overlords, if it felt safe in doing so. Many times the mere 
repair of city walls aroused suspicion and was interpreted as a preparation for rebellion. 
That the accusation was entirely unfounded, however, is quite clear. The Jews had been 
grateful to Cyrus for allowing them to return to their former homeland. They had 
received royal favors, and were certainly far from revolting against the benevolent rulers 
of Persia, who had favored them in many ways. The history of Jewry under Persian rule 
reveals no real, organized revolt. 

Toll, tribute, and custom. The three expressions chosen by the translators of the KJV 
do not clearly convey the meaning of the three Aramaic words involved. The first, a loan 
word from the Akkadian, means revenues to be paid in money; the second, an old Persian 
word, means tribute to be paid in kind or produce; the third, also taken from Akkadian, 
represents feudal fees to be paid for certain grants. 



14. We have maintenance from the king’s palace. Literally, “Now because we eat 
the salt of the palace,” an idiomatic expression. Their interests were thus linked with 
those of the king, and the continued well-being of the throne and the financial health of 
the royal treasury were matters of personal concern to them. 

15. Book of the records. The great nations of antiquity, such as the Assyrians, 
Babylonians, and Persians, kept political, economic, and historical records. Many such 
archives have come to light in recent years. Since the city of Babylon was not destroyed 
when it fell to Cyrus, the archives of Nebuchadnezzar probably fell into the hands of the 
Persians intact, and could thus be consulted by later Persian kings. Such a search, now 
proposed, would prove the correctness of the accusation made. 

For which cause. Here was an undeniable fact on which the Samaritans relied. It was 
a historical fact, easily proved, that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem only after 
repeated rebellions. This line of argument, however, was no proof that the Jews would 
revolt against their Persian overlords, who had shown themselves true friends of the Jews 
and treated them so generously. 

16. Have no portion. The danger of a possible rebellion was so exaggerated that the 
accusation appears almost ridiculous. The Samaritans claimed that a revolt of the Jews 
would result in the loss to Persia of the entire satrapy “Beyond the River” (see on v. 10) 
which compromised all the lands lying between Babylonia and Egypt, and of which 
Judea was one of the smallest. 

17. An answer. The fact that the king corresponded directly with provincial officials, 
by-passing the satrap, points to a most unusual political situation. Under ordinary 
circumstances the king would never have written directly to lower state officials in a 
distant province. Such a message would have been transmitted through regular diplomatic 
channels, in this instance the office of the satrap. 

Rehum. On Rehum and Shimshai and their titles, see on v. 8. 

Peace, and at such a time. The Aramaic word shelam, translated “peace,” is the 
universal greeting used in most parts of the Near East to the present day, whether it be 
pronounced “saZam,” “sZiaZam,” or some other way. The Aramaic word translated “and at 
such a time” has been found in short Aramaic letters written on potsherds (ostraca) from 
the 5th century B.C., and apparently was part of a common formula of greeting. It should 
be translated “And now” (RSV), and introduces the message of the letter. 

18. Plainly. Some commentators have suggested translating the Aramaic word 

meparash as “in Persian,” which would make good sense here. Since the same word, 
however, occurs in another Aramaic document where only the meaning “plainly” fits the 
context, the translation of the KJV must be accepted as correct. 

19. Search hath been made. The Samaritans’ suggestion of checking on the history 
of the Jews in the archives of the Babylonians was carried out. The records of 
Nebuchadnezzar were still available for official investigation. 

20. Mighty kings. If the king’s words mean what they seem to say, they can refer 
only to David and Solomon, to whom alone such a description applies. Israel then raled 
from the border of Egypt to the Euphrates (1 Kings. 4:21,24), and expected tribute from 
various princes and afters (2 Sam. 8:6-12; 1 Kings 10:14, 25). If indeed David and 
Solomon are meant, the records of Babylon must have been exceptionally complete and 
accurate. The only other ruler that might have been considered a “mighty king” of 



Jerusalem was Josiah, who felt himself strong enough to risk battle with the armies of 
Egypt (2 Kings 23:29). 

Toll, tribute, and custom. See on v. 13. 

21. Give ye now commandment. The commission is indeed a strange one. The 
emperor writes to a distant province and orders its officials to issue a decree. Why did not 
the king act in his own name and effect his will through agents who were responsible to 
him, and who customarily acted on his behalf? It seems that this royal letter fits only into 
the time when the king’s authority in the satrapy “Beyond the River” was tenuous at best, 
and was dependent on any officials who might choose to be loyal to him. It should be 
noted, furthermore, that the royal concession to the Samaritans was limited in scope and 
time. The letter pennitted them to order the work of rebuilding Jerusalem to halt, but did 
not give them permission to destroy what had already been built. The king also reserved 
the right to countermand his present decision by another to be made later. 

Until another commandment. Apparently the king intended to invite the Jews to 
present their case, to affirm their loyalty to him, as the Samaritans had apparently done, 
and thereupon to be in a position to receive new royal favors. The letter thus constituted a 
temporary royal injunction, or restraining order. 

23. Rehum. On Rehum and Shimshai and their titles, see on v. 8. 

By force and power. Upon receipt of the king’s letter the enemies of the Jews lost no 
time in acting on its authority. They proceeded immediately to Jerusalem, and, by a 
display of force, compelled the Jews to comply with its provisions. 

24. Then ceased the work. That very little progress had been made at the time when 
work ceased can be seen from the fact that it was necessary to lay a new foundation stone 
in the second year of Darius, when the work of rebuilding the Temple was resumed 
(Haggai 2:18). 

It was not God’s will that the work of reconstruction should cease. Active faith on the 
part of the people would have been met by divine power exercised to hold the enemies of 
His people in check. 

Darius. Darius is the Greek form of the name, which in the Hebrew is written 
Dareyawesh. The Old Persian form is Darayavaush , while the name is spelled 
Darijawush in Babylonian texts. In Egyptian hieroglyphs, where the vowels are not 
expressed, the king’s name is written Drjwsh, and in the Aramaic vowelless inscriptions 

Dryhwsh, Drywhsh or Drywsh. There can be no question that Darius I, who reigned from 
522-486 B.C., is meant. According to Persian reckoning, the second regnal year of Darius 
began on Nisan 1 (April 3), 520 B.C., and ended on the last day of the month Adar (March 
22), 519 B.c. (see pp. 98, 99). 

ADDITIONAL NOTE ON CHAPTER 4 

Ezra 4:6-23 speaks of the opposition of the enemies of the Jews “in the reign of 
Ahasuerus,” and of a letter of complaint “in the days of Artaxerxes” that brought a royal 
order to force the Jews to stop building. Verse 24 closes the chapter with this statement: 
“Then ceased the work of the house of God which is at Jerusalem. So it ceased unto the 
second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.” 

On the face of it this reference to Darius in v. 24 seems to be a continuation of the 
preceding passage (vs. 5-23), and if so, “Ahasuerus” and “Artaxerxes” were kings 
reigning between Cyrus and Darius I. Accordingly, v. 24, which speaks of the “second 



year of the reign of Darius,” would mark the end of a consecutive narrative, with the 
reference to Darius in v. 5 merely stating in advance the duration of the hindrances to be 
narrated in vs. 6-23. Hence the sequence of kings in eh. 4 would be: Cyrus (v. 5), 
Ahasuerus (v. 6), Artaxerxes (v. 7), Darius (vs. 5, 24). Those who thus understand eh. 4 
point to the fact that ancient history reveals that two kings bridge the gap between Cyrus 
and Darius I, namely, Cambyses and the false Smerdis (see pp. 56, 57). They also point 
out that Smerdis apparently was known under various names, the Babylonians calling 

him Bardiya, while Greek authors seem to have known him not only under the name 

Smerdis but also as Merdis, Mardois, and Tanuoxarkes or Tanaoxares. They therefore 
conclude that the Ahasuerus of v. 6 is Cambyses, and the Artaxerxes of v. 7 is the false 
Smerdis. 

However, it is generally held today that the incidents described in eh. 4 are not given 
in their chronological order; specifically, that the events of vs. 6-23 took place at a later 
time than those of vs. 1-5, 24. Accordingly, v. 24 and the narrative in eh. 5 about the 
work of Haggai and Zechariah, who were active in the 2d year of Darius I, are held to be 
a continuation of the order of events that was interrupted at eh. 4:5. Those who take this 
position insist that it does not cast a shadow on inspiration; Biblical writers often depart 
from strict time order in their narratives. 

Those who hold that the events of ch. 4 are not set forth in chronological order stress 
the fact that the actual sequence of names in vs. 5-7 is Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, 
Artaxerxes. They also stress the corollary fact of history that the two kings that followed 
Darius I were Xerxes (authoritatively identified with the Ahasuerus of Esther) and 
Artaxerxes I. Therefore they affirm that the “accusation” of v. 6 was made in the 
beginning of the reign of Xerxes, probably when he passed through Palestine on his way 
to Egypt; and that the “letter” of v. 7 produced an unfavorable edict from Artaxerxes I, 
the same king who had sent Ezra to Jerusalem under a most generous decree. 

It is the letter to Artaxerxes (v. 7) that creates a problem on both sides of this question 
of the identification of the kings named in vs. 6 and 7. Those who hold that Ahasuerus 
and Artaxerxes are, respectively, Cambyses and Smerdis find themselves confronted with 
the problem of accounting for the names of the kings, and for the fact that the 
complaining letter deals only with the building of the city and walls, and makes no 
reference to the rearing of the Temple. In the days of Smerdis the Temple was being 
built, but there is no Biblical evidence that the walls were being built, unless it is found in 
Ezra. 4:7-23. On the other hand, those who regard this incident of the complaining letter 
as occurring during the reign of Artaxerxes I are required to account for a complete 
reversal of the king’s attitude toward the Jews—from that of favor in his 7th year to 
disfavor in an unknown year, and back to favor in his 20th year. 

Inasmuch as many Biblical scholars today hold that Ahasuerus (v. 6) is Xerxes, and 
Artaxerxes (v. 7) is Artaxerxes I, the reasons they offer for this view are here summarized 
for the benefit of those readers who may wish to examine this problem more 
exhaustively. 

1. The identification of Ahasuerus. The name Ahasuerus is found in three OT 
books—Daniel, Esther, and Ezra. Daniel’s reference to Ahasuerus as the father of Darius 
the Mede (ch. 9:1) can be left undiscussed here, since the identity of Daniel’s Darius has 
not yet been established by contemporary records. Hence, the identification of his father 
is also obscure. The Ahasuerus of Esther (ch. 1:1; etc.) is generally identified with the 



king whom the Greeks called Xerxes. The Hebrew Achashwerosh is a much closer 
transliteration of the Persian Khshayarsha or the Babylonian from Achshiyarshu than is 

the Greek Xerxes. It should not be forgotten that the vowels did not come into the 
Hebrew Bible manuscripts until about the 7th century A.D. Hence, the Hebrew author of 
Esther reproduced only the consonants of Khshayarsha and wrote ’Chshwrwsh. The Jews 

of Elephantine in Egypt spelled the name Chshy’rsh or Chshyrsh in their vowelles 
Aramaic script. 

The spelling of the name Ahasuerus in Ezra 4:6 is the same as in Esther, and 
linguistically fits, of all known Persian kings, only the name of Xerxes, there is no 
linguistic basis whatsoever for identifying the name Ahasuerus with Cambyses. 
Cambyses’ name appears as Kambujiya or Kabujiya in Old Persian, Kambusiya in 

Elamite Kambuziya in Akkadian, Kmbyt in hieroglyphic Egyptian, and Kambyses in 
Greek. The Jews of Elephantine spelled the name in their vowelless Aramaic script 
Knbwzy. It is therefore impossible to equate the Hebrew form ’Chshwrwsh with any of 
the known transliterations of Cambyses. It is also unwarranted to assume that he was 
known under another name among the Palestinian Jews. His name appears on numerous 
Babylonian cuneiform tablets, on Persian stone inscriptions, Egyptian hieroglyphic 
monuments, in Aramaic papyri,and in the historical works of the Greeks, but always as 
Cambyses. 

2. The identification of Artaxerxes. The name “Artaxerxes” occurs in the Bible only 

in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. History knows three Persian kings of this name, 
called Artaxerxes I, II, and III. That the Artaxerxes of Ezra 7 (vs. 1,7, 11,21), Ezra 8:1, 
and Nehemiah (chs. 2:1; 5:14; 13:6) must be identified with Artaxerxes I is shown in the 
Additional Notes on Ezra 7 and Nehemiah 2. Thus this present discussion deals only with 
the identity of the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7, 8, 11, 23, and 6:14. 

The Hebrew spells the name Artaxerxes as ’Artachshast’, ’Artachshast’, and 

’Artachshasta’; the Old Persian, Ardakhcashaca or Artakhshaira: the Babylonian, 

Artakshatsu and Artahshassu; the Elamite, Irtakshasha; the Egyptian hieroglyphs, 

’Rtchshssh; and frequently in the Jewish Aramaic papyri of Elephantine the spelling is 

’Rtchshssh. These transliterations in different languages refer only to the three kings 
known as Artaxerxes I, II, and III. The reader should note that the consonants in the 
various transliterations are basically the same, and that only the vowels change, a change 
of secondary importance in most languages. 

It has been claimed by those who identify the false Smerdis with Artaxerxes that 
Smerdis was known under widely different names. But a close study of his known names 
in the light of linguistic rules shows that this is not the case. His original name, according 

to Darius I, was Gaumata, but he claimed to be Bardiya, the brother of Cambyses, and is 
called only by this name in known contemporary records. This name appears as Birtiya in 
Elamite, Barziya in Akkadian, and in the Jewish Elephantine papyri, Brzy (without 
vowels). 



The Greeks called this false Bardiya “Smerdis.” Now “Bardiya” looks altogether 
different from “Smerdis,” but the difference is more apparent than real. The initial S of 
Smerdis remains unaccounted for. The B of Bardiya expressed by an m in Smerdis 
follows a common linguistic phenomenon,according to which b, v and m frequently 
interchange in different languages. The r and d of Bardiya are retained unchanged in the 
Greek form Smerdis, which contains the Greek ending is instead of the Persian iya. It is 
clear, then, that the name Smerdis, and its variants Merdis and Mardois, are only variant 
transliterations of Bardiya, not different names. It is furthermore pointed out that the 

Tanuoxarkes of Ctesias and the Tanaoxares of Xenophon are not to be identified with 
the false Smerdis, but with the real son of Cyrus whom Cambyses killed, and who 
according to Darius was the true Bardiya. The two apparently various names, 

Tanuoxarkes and Tanoxares, have the same meaning, “The one with the giant’s body,” 
and are Greek designations, which were given to Bardiya, since their legends ascribed to 
him the body of a giant. It is therefore maintained by those who oppose an identification 
of the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4 with Smerdis that there is no evidence for the assumption that 
the false Bardiya, or Smerdis, was known as Artaxerxes during his short reign, or 
thereafter. 

3. Reason for apparently strange sequences in narrative. The author of Ezra would 

undoubtedly have had a good reason for presenting the narrative of eh. 4 in the sequence 
in which it is found. The chapter in this form deals with the work of opposition to the 
returned Jews that was carried on by their “adversaries.” The writer, living in the time of 
Artaxerxes I, did not limit his record of antagonistic actions to the time of Zerubbabel, 
but added similar experiences of much more recent dates to show to his readers that the 
Samaritans, the principal enemies of the Jews, had worked against them intermittently 
ever since the end of the Exile. First, they had “weakened the hands of the people of 
Judah, and troubled them in building” the Temple during the reign of Cyrus and his 
successors “until the reign of Darius” I (Ezra 4:1-5) Later, “in the reign of Ahasuerus,” 
Darius I’s son and successor, a further undisclosed attempt was made to harass the Jews 
(v. 6). Finally, a letter of accusation was sent to Artaxerxes, the king under whom Ezra 
lived, with the result that the work of restoring Jerusalem’s wall was halted temporarily 
by a royal decree (vs. 7-23). 

Only after Ezra had related these different hostile acts carried out by the enemies of 
his people during a period of about 90 years, did he continue his narrative of the Temple 
building under the leadership of Zerubbabel and Jeshua. Hence, v. 24 resumes the story 
where it was left in v. 5 and repeats some of the thoughts already previously expressed, in 
order to lead the reader back to the story which had been interrupted by vs. 6-23. 

It may be worth while to notice, in passing, that Ezra presents documentary evidence 
for only one of the three hostile incidents related in eh. 4. The nature of the hostile acts 
carried out from the time of Cyrus until Darius is indicated only in general tenns, of 
which the hiring of “counsellors against them” is the only specific indictment mentioned. 
About the nature and result of the “accusation against the inhabitants of Judah and 
Jerusalem” under Ahasuerus (v. 6) the reader is left entirely in the dark. These incidents 
had occurred before Ezra’s time, and documents concerning them were probably no 
longer available. However, the fact that detailed and documentary evidence is presented 



concerning the events which had taken place in Artaxerxes’ time lends weight to the view 
that Ezra had been involved in it. 

4 .Explanation of Artaxerxes ’ changed policies toward the Jews. One of the reasons 
offered for identifying the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4:7-23 with Smerdis, is this: Artaxerxes I 
of history is known from Ezra 7 and Nehemiah 2 as a king who twice showed favors to 
the Jews, which makes his conduct toward them compare favorably with that of previous 
Persian kings. Therefore it seems difficult to understand that he should have acted in an 
unfavorable way toward the Jews, which he must have done if he is the Artaxerxes of 
Ezra 4. On the other hand, it is a fact of history that Smerdis destroyed temples that had 
been supported by his predecessors on the Persian throne. Although Darius’ statement 
that Smerdis, the former Magian, had destroyed temples, probably refers primarily to 
Zoroastrian sanctuaries, it may include others. Hence, it is held that it is not unreasonable 
to conclude that Smerdis issued a decree adversely affecting the building program of the 
Jews in the days of Zerubbabel, although no Biblical or contemporary secular proof exists 
for this plausible view. 

However, the reasons just given for identifying the Artaxerxes of Ezra 4 with Smerdis 
are not as weighty as might appear. The historical Artaxerxes I is known as a moody and 
unreliable character, from whom one could always expect a change in attitude. A study of 
his life history makes it easy to understand how he reversed his favors to disfavors. Of 
the various stories that reveal his unreliable and unpredictable character the following are 
typical: 

The Egyptian rebel Inarus had been given a solemn assurance that his life would be 
spared if he would surrender. Receiving this pledge, Inarus gave himself up, but was 
nevertheless murdered by Artaxerxes I some time later on. This act of royal perfidy, 
unworthy of a Persian ruler, made Megabyzos, his brother-in-law, so angry that he 
rebelled against the crown, with the result that the empire was nearly wrecked. 

On one occasion, when the king was unexpectedly attacked by a lion, Megabyzos 
came between them and saved the king’s life by killing the lion. Yet, Artaxerxes, who 
apparently did not like the idea that he had needed the help of another when in a 
precarious situation, lost his temper and demanded that Megabyzos should be killed. He 
finally reversed his order and banished him instead. 

Although Artaxerxes was not a bad man by the standards of his day, he was 
untrustworthy, since he acted on moody impulses and momentary feelings and 
impressions. Hence, Artaxerxes would simply be running true to form, if after showing 
favors to the Jews, he reversed himself completely on another occasion. 

The events related in Ezra 4:7-23 fit the political conditions that existed during the 
revolt of Megabyzos, governor of the province of “Beyond the River,” to which Samaria 
and Judea both belonged. This rebellion probably began about 488 B.c. and lasted some 
years. Those who hold that the narrative related in this Scripture passage took place in the 
time of Artaxerxes I point out that it seems likely that only during this time would the 
Persian king have dealt directly with local officials, accepted letters from them, and sent 
them his decisions without passing them through the regular channels of the satrap’s 
office, as appears to be the case in these letters. The Samaritans would have used the 
opportunity of Megabyzos’ rebellion to assure the king of their continued loyalty and at 
the same time accuse the Jews of treacherously rebuilding their fortifications with the 
definite purpose of revolting against the king. In that case Artaxerxes, who grasped at 



every means that offered itself to help him in his dilemma, especially if he could at the 
same time create unrest and difficulties in Megabyzos’ territory, would have granted the 
request of the Samaritans to stop the work of the Jews in rebuilding Jerusalem. 
Accordingly, these enemies of the Jews, not satisfied with this permission, would go to 
Jerusalem and use “force and power” against their hated neighbors. If the foregoing is an 
accurate reconstruction of history, then this was probably the time when portions of the 
partly rebuilt wall were broken down and some of the completed gates burned with fire 
(Neh. 1:3). 

5. Hostile acts of chapter 4 deal with different subjects. The nature of the 
“accusation” in Ahasuerus’ reign is unknown. In the days of Cyrus (vs. 1-5) the 
opposition to the building activity of the Jews evidently sprang from the fact that they 
were rebuilding the Temple (see vs. 1 and 3). The reason mentioned for the enmity of the 
Samaritans in Artaxerxes’ time was that the Jews were rebuilding the city and the wall 
(see vs. 12, 13, 16,21). 

Some commentators who have identified the Artaxerxes of ch. 4 with Smerdis hold 
that the “wall” of vs. 12, 13, and 16 refers simply to the protective outside walls of the 
Temple area. However, this is an interpretation based, not on facts, but on conjecture. 

6. The Artaxerxes of chapter 6:14. In ch. 6:14 an Artaxerxes is mentioned as one of 
three Persian kings whose “commandment” enabled the Jews to build and finish the 
Temple. To identify this Artaxerxes also with Smerdis seems out of the question, since 
Smerdis ruled less than seven months. If in reply to a letter of complaint, he issued a 
decree that halted the Temple building, he must also have issued another 
“commandment,” favorable to the Jews, all within his seven months’ reign—something 
highly improbable. For this reason many of the commentators who have declared that the 
Artaxerxes of ch. 4 is Smerdis, have nevertheless declared that the Artaxerxes of ch. 6:14 
is Artaxerxes I. But if the Artaxerxes of ch. 6 is the same as the Artaxerxes ch. 7—and 
there is general agreement that he is—there is no valid Biblical or historical reason to 
identify the Artaxerxes of ch. 4 as any other than Artaxerxes I. 

These six points summarize the reasons offered by those who hold that the Ahasuerus 
of Ezra 4:6 is Xerxes and that the Artaxerxes of vs. 7-23 is Artaxerxes I. 

The facts of history and the sacred record are always in harmony, each with the other. 
Any seeming discrepancy between the two is due to our limited knowledge and 
understanding of one or both. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1-24PK567-573 
1,2 PK 567 

3 PK 568 
1-5IT281 

4 PK 594 
4,5 PK 571 
7 PK 572 
21-24PK 573 
23 PK 594 


CHAPTER 5 



1 Zerubbabel and Jeshua, incited by Haggai and Zechariah, set forward the building of the 
temple. 3 Tatnai and Shethar-boznai could not hinder the Jews. 6 Their letter to Darius 
against the Jews. 

1. Then the prophets. This is the first mention of the work of prophets among the 
Jews after their return from exile. Prophecy seems to have been silent for about 16 years, 
ever since the “third year of Cyrus,” Daniel uttered his last message (Dan. 10:1). Now it 
was revived. Since we have the actual writings of the two prophets here mentioned, 
Haggai and Zechariah, we are well informed as to what they contributed by way of 
encouragement and guidance in the resumption of work on the Temple. It is evident from 
their words that the long delay in realizing the ardent hopes in regard to the rebuilding of 
the Temple had had an adverse effect on the spirit of the people. Experiencing opposition 
to their pious efforts to please God and to re-establish the Temple and its services, they 
allowed their enthusiasm to fade away. A selfish desire for comfort had taken the place of 
zeal for the honor of God. 

Instead of watching for an opportunity to begin the work anew, and taking advantage 
of it, the people acquiesced in the indefinite postponement and said among themselves, 
“The time is not come, the time that the Lord’s house should be built” (Haggai 1:2). 
Laying aside the idea of pressing forward with the work, they had turned their energies to 
the practical object of establishing themselves in comfortable homes (Haggai 1:4, 9). The 
result of this complacency had been divine judgments, consisting of poor harvests, 
economic distress (Haggai 1:6, 1:9-11), and great political insecurity (Zech. 1:12 to 2:9). 
These conditions had not been recognized by the people as signs of God’s displeasure. 
Human agents were therefore raised up by God to interpret to the people the meaning of 
the circumstances in which they found themselves and to inspire them with new zeal. 

Haggai the prophet. Nothing is known of him except his name and his work during a 
very few months at this most critical time. The name, which occurs occasionally in early 
Israelite history, appears far more often in the postexilic period. Eleven different Jews 
mentioned in Aramaic documents of 5th-century Elephantine bore this name, which has 
also been found in excavated documents in Palestine. The name may have come into 
favor because of the fame the prophet Haggai attained as a result of his successful 
ministry. 

Zechariah the son of Iddo. Since, in Hebrew usage, the word “son” is also used in 
the sense of grandson, it is no mistake to call Zechariah the son of Iddo, although he was 
actually Iddo’s grandson (Zech. 1:1; see on 1 Chron. 6:13, 14). Zechariah’s father had 
either been less important than his grandfather, or had died early, with the result that 
Zechariah was probably brought up in his grandfather’s house. 

Prophesied. Prophecy does not consist primarily in making predictions—as the word 
is commonly but inaccurately understood. Most prophetic messages were exhortation and 
instruction. Those who gave these messages were called prophets because they spoke in 
response to divine direction, and whatever they uttered as a result of this divine 
illumination was called prophesying. 

2. Zerubbabel. The political and spiritual leaders of the people were still the same as 
in the time of Cyrus(see eh. 2:2). Haggai’s first message was especially directed to these 
leaders, and other messages of Haggai and Zechariah, given upon various occasions, 
aided and encouraged them in their work (Haggai 1:1; 2:21-23; Zech. 3:1-10; 4:6-10). 



Began to build. The data given by Haggai reveal the successive stages that marked 
the resumption of building activity. The first call for action was sounded Aug. 29, 520 
B.C. (Haggai 1:1). This appeal proved successful, for the leaders apparently began laying 
plans immediately, and actually set to work about three weeks later, Sept. 21, 520 B.C. 
(Haggai 1:15). When the site was cleared and the trenches were being dug for the new 
foundation, it again became apparent that the new Temple would not compare well in 
size and beauty with that of Solomon’s, and some expressions of disappointment were 
heard (Haggai 2:3, 9; cf. Ezra 3:12, 13). For this reason Haggai addressed another 
message of encouragement, this time to the people, on October 17 (Haggai 2:1). Two 
months later everything was ready for the laying of the foundation, and that great 
occasion, Dec. 18, 520 B.C. (Haggai 2:10, 18), was celebrated, in keeping with Oriental 
custom. On that day Haggai delivered two speeches, the last of which we have any 
record. In the meantime, two months after Haggai delivered his first recorded message, 
Zechariah joined him (Zech. 1:1). A study of the books of Haggai and Zechariah 
emphasizes the accuracy of the statement of Ezra 5:2, that “the prophets of God” were 
“helping them” in rebuilding the Temple. Their stirring messages of exhortation, 
instruction, and encouragement contributed much to the task; in fact, except for their 
inspired ministry, the Temple might have continued to lie desolate. 

3. Tatnai. The satrap of “Beyond the River” was Ushtani, in Greek, Hystanes. He had 
been appointed in the spring of 520 by Darius, and resided in Babylon, inasmuch as he 
was concurrently satrap of Babylonia. Until recently it was thought that Ushtani was only 
another name for Tatnai, but a recently published cuneiform document mentions 
“Tattanni, governor of Ebir-nari.” We know now that Tatnai was the deputy of Ushtani 
for the satrapy “Beyond the River.” Being in charge of two satrapies, Ushtani could not 
devote sufficient time to both; the satrapy of Babylonia required most of his attention. It 

is noteworthy that the Biblical report calls Tatnai a pachath , “governor,” exactly the 

same word (pahat ) the cuneiform inscription uses to designate Tatnai. 

Shethar-boznau According to Herodotus (iii. 128), every satrap had a royal secretary, 
and this was probably the office held by Shethar-boznai. The name is attested in Old 

Iranian as Shethrabuzana, and in cuneiform documents in the form of Shatabarzana, 

Ushtabuzana. 

Their companions. The complement of assistants and servants that formed the 
regular retinue of a satrap. 

Who hath commanded you? The reason for this visit seems to have been another 
complaint made by the enemies of the Jews. Tatnai, apparently a conscientious Persian 
official, had decided to make a personal investigation before passing on the complaint. It 
is also possible, however, that Tatnai came to Jerusalem, not as the result of a complaint 
concerning the renewed building activities at the site of the Temple, but on a routine tour 
of inspection, perhaps his first, following appointment to the office of deputy satrap of 
“Beyond the River.” Arriving in Jerusalem and observing the building program in 
progress, he demanded to know the authority for it. It may seem strange today that he 
asked for the “command” for rebuilding the Temple rather than the “permit, ” but in the 
official language of the times a “permit” was a “command.” 

This house. See on eh. 1:2. 



This wall. The Aramaic word translated here and in v. 9 as “wall” is also used 
repeatedly in Aramaic documents from Elephantine (see pp. 79-83), but its meaning is 
nevertheless obscure. In those documents it can have the meaning “outfit,” “decoration,” 
“detail,” in three instances, but in another document seems to mean “specification.” It is 
certain, however, that it does not mean “wall,” a translation derived from the LXX and 
the Vulgate. In the light of the Elephantine texts the question of Tatnai should probably 
be translated, “Who has commanded you to build this temple, and to design these details 
[or, decorations]?” 

4. Then said we unto them. The LXX reads, “Then said they [Tatnai and Shetharb- 
boznai] to them [the Jews].” The Aramaic clearly reads “we” rather than “they,” but such 
a reading cannot be harmonized with the context. It seems preferable to read “they,” thus 
making the first part of v. 4 a statement introducing the question of the latter part of the 
verse as one asked by Tatnai and Shethar-boznai (see vs. 6, 10). 

5. The eye of their God. “The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous ” (Ps. 34:15). 
“He withdraweth not his eyes from the righteous ” (Job 36:7). The elders had acted in 
response to a direct command of God through His prophets (see on Ezra 5:1, 2), and God 
saw to it that they remained unmolested while carrying out His will. 

While the author of Ezra gave all glory to God for the outcome of Tatnai’s visit, one 
cannot help admiring the impartiality of this important official, who acted according to 
the highest traditions of integrity of a Persian officer. 

6. Tatnai. Concerning Tatnai and Shethar-boznai, see on v. 3. 

The Apharsachites. Some of the older commentators took the word thus translated to 
mean “Persians,” but it was discovered to be an Old Iranian word designating an inferior 
class of officials. 

8. The house of the great God. This is a remarkable expression in the mouth of a 
heathen. The Persians were Zoroastrians, and the monotheism of the Jews no doubt 
appealed to them as a religion similar to their own. This may partially explain why 
Persian kings and officials were, for the most part, sympathetically disposed toward the 
Jews in general and toward their desires and aspirations. 

Great stones. Literally, “stones of rolling,” indicating stones of such a size as to 
require rollers in order to be moved. In ancient times stones of tremendous size were used 
for temples and public buildings. Some of these stones can be seen in Egyptian temples, 
such as the one in Kamak, or in a later buildings, such as the Roman temple at Baalbek or 
the superstructure of Abraham’s tomb in Hebron. 

Timber is laid in the walls. A reference to the ancient architectural method of laying 
a row of timber in the walls for each three rows of stones. The decree of Cyrus expressly 
made mention of this procedure (eh. 6:4), and the Jews were meticulously following the 
order. The method of building walls by alternating one row of timber and three rows of 
stone is first mentioned in connection with Solomon’s Temple (1 Kings 7:12). During the 
excavation of Megiddo a public building of the time of Solomon was uncovered which 
showed this architectural feature, the timber used being cedar. Other places where this 
practice has been observed are Carchemish, a Hittite city, and ancient Alalakh in northern 
Syria. The older Jews, who had seen Solomon’s Temple with the rows of timber in the 
walls, may be have desired to see the new Temple built in the same fashion, and made 
request to Cyrus accordingly. This seems to be the only plausible explanation for this 



provision in the official decree, because it was not the custom of the Persians to build 
walls in this way, or of any other nation of that time, so far as our knowledge goes. 

9. Then asked we those elders. Zerubbabel, as governor of Judea, was the appointed 
representative of the Persian Government and probably received Tatnai and his staff in 
his own official mansion. Zerubbabel seems not to have revealed to Tatnai his own part 
in the rebuilding of the Temple, and to have referred Tatnai with all his questions to the 
“elders” of the people (see eh. 2:2, 68). That Zerubbabel is not the spokesman of the 
elders in the investigation is evident from their references to him as governor (vs. 14-16) 
by the name under which he was known to the Persian administration in Cyrus’ time (see 
on eh. 1:8). When Tatnai came none of the Jews knew what his attitude might prove to 
be, and the elders may have felt it the part of wisdom that Zerubbabel should remain in 
the background if an investigation were to be conducted. They may have reasoned that if 
Tatnai should stop the work, and perhaps send the responsible leaders to Persia to give an 
account of their doings, the state would thus not be deprived of Zerubbabel, whose 
leadership apparently meant much to them at this time. 

10. Their names. See on v. 4. Tatnai deemed it important to send with his letter a list 
of the names of the leading men in charge of the new building program. Officials in the 
Persian capital could ascertain whether any of the men named had engaged in subversive 
activities, and whether they were the recognized leaders of the Jews. The list of names is 
unfortunately not included in the book of Ezra, and we do not know whose names Tatnai 
included. The name of the high priest, Jeshua, probably headed the list, but Zerubbabel’s 
name may not have been included (see on v. 9). 

11. Servants. Humbly, the elders claimed to be no more than servants of God and to 
be following His directions. Thus they were bound to obey when God should speak. 

God of heaven. This name of God was the one Jews customarily used in speaking 
about Him to their Persian overlords, as we know from the Elephantine papyri (see pp. 
79-83). 

Great king of Israel. That is, Solomon, greatest of all Jewish monarchs, so far as the 
extent and prosperity of his kingdom are concerned and the position it occupied among 
other kingdoms of his time. 

12. Our fathers had provoked. Chiefly, by their flagrant idolatry and the moral 
abominations it involved—the sacrifice of children, and licentious rites belonging to the 
worship of Baal. For centuries, with only short and rare intervals, “the chief of the priests, 
and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen,” and 
even “polluted the house of the Lord which he had hallowed in Jerusalem” (2 Chron. 
36:14). 

Nebuchadnezzar. For the final siege of Jerusalem see 2 Kings 24 and 25. 

13. Cyrus the king of Babylon. On the date of the decree referred to, see on eh. 1:1. 
To call Cyrus “king of Babylon” is as correct as to give him the title “king of Persia” (eh. 
1:1), Cyrus took Babylon in October, 539 B.c. The next spring, in his absence, his son 
Cambyses attended the New Year festival, at which each king of Babylon received his 
kingship by taking the hands of Bel Marduk, the chief god. Later that year, and thereafter, 
we find Babylonian documents prefixing “King of Babylon” to Cyrus’ title “King of 
Lands.” 



King Cyrus. The repetition of the name Cyrus in this verse is significant, and was 
apparently used to emphasize the fact that the building activities did not represent a 
rebellious spirit, but were in accordance with a royal decree. 

14. The vessels. See on eh. 1:7-11. 

Nebuchadnezzar took. See on 2 Kings 24:13. 

Sheshbazzar. See on chs. 1:8; 5:9. From the additional information here given we 
learn that Sheshbazzar, or Zerubbabel, as he was more commonly called, had been made 
governor of Judea, a fact not mentioned in the earlier account of Cyrus’ commission. 

15. Let the house. The Temple place was an ancient, holy site, chosen by God 
Flimself. It was the place to which God directed Abraham when he went forth to sacrifice 
his son (Gen. 22:2), where the angel stood and stayed the pestilence in David’s time (2 
Sam. 24:16, 17), and where “the glory of the Lord fdled the house” in Solomon’s day (2 
Chron. 7:1). 

16. Since that time. It is not clear whether the latter half of v. 16 is part of the answer 
given by the elders to Tatnai, which he reports to Darius (see v. 11), or Tatnai’s own 
opinion relative to the facts. Perhaps the latter is the more probable. Tatnai was possibly 
not aware that for a number of years previous to the second year of Darius the work had 
been suspended. It would seem that the work must have progressed rapidly, or Tatnai 
would not have concluded that the present state of progress might conceivably represent 
more than 15 years of work. It is also possible that a considerable time had elapsed since 
the renewal of building activity in the second year of Darius. 

17. The king’s treasure house. Excavations have shown that documents of religious 
or literary nature were preserved in temple archives or in palaces, and economic and 
political documents in palace libraries. Numerous large archives consisting of many 
thousands of cuneiform tablets have been found in the ruined sites of the ancient world. 
The most famous of these archives is the so-called library of Ashurbanipal, found in one 
of his palaces at Nineveh. Other state libraries or archives have been found in the royal 
palaces at Mari on the central Euphrates, in the Hittite capital city of Khattushash 
(Boghazkoy), in the palace of Ugarit (Ras Shamrah), the palace of Ikhnaton at Amama, 
and elsewhere. Whether royal treasures were kept in the same places is not yet certain, 
but this may easily have been the case. Hence, it was probably on the basis of good 
information that Tatnai proposed a search of the royal treasury for the decree of Cyras, to 
determine whether the claim of the Jews was true. 

At Babylon. Thinking that the decree had been issued at Babylon, Tatnai suggested 
an investigation of the files kept there. It is probable that neither the Jews, who suggested 
the search, nor Tatnai himself knew that the decree actually had been made at Ecbatana, 
the former capital of Media. It seems strange that the Jews were not able to produce a 
copy of the document to establish the truth of their claims. It is possible that their 
enemies, in a surprise attack, had stolen and destroyed their official files. This would 
have left the Jews without any legal evidence by which they could prove their right to 
rebuild the Temple. 

It should be noted in this connection that Tatnai must have gained a favorable 
impression of the sincerity and good faith of the Jews. He did not stop the work, but 
allowed them to continue to build until a thorough investigation would determine the 
validity of their claims and the present king had had an opportunity to render a decision. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 



1 PK 573 

2 PK 577, 579 
5,6 PK 578 


CHAPTER 6 

1 Darius, finding the decree of Cyrus, maketh a new decree for the advancement of the 
building. 13 By the help of the enemies, and the directions of the prophets, the temple is 
finished. 16 The feast of the dedication is kept, 19 and the passover. 

1. Then Darius. The request of Tatnai, deputy satrap of “Beyond the River,” received 
the immediate attention of Darius (eh. 5:17). 

Made a decree. Preferably, “gave an order,” since a “decree” was not necessary in 
order to have a search made in the royal archives for the document. 

House of the rolls. Literally, “in the house of the books,” that is, the royal library or 
archives. On the observation that the “treasures” were kept there, see on eh. 5:17. 

In Babylon. Tatnai seems to have received the impression from the Jews during his 
visit in Jerusalem that the original document would probably be found in the royal 
archives at Babylon. He had suggested, therefore, that Babylon was the place where the 
search should be made (eh. 5:17). Darius followed this suggestion and had a search made 
at Babylon, which, however, proved to be fruitless. 

2. Found at Achmetha. When the document referred to in Tatnai’s letter was not 
found, a further order was apparently given to extend the search to the royal archives of 
the other Persian capital cities, Ecbatana and Susa. This indicates a sincere effort on the 
part of the king and his officials to be fair, and to make a thorough investigation before 
reaching a decision. This places the Persians in a most favorable light. They could easily 
have discontinued the search upon finding, at Babylon, no decree of Cyrus regarding the 
Jews. In extending the search to other places where it was apparently known that official 
documents of Cyrus’ first year were deposited, these officials did everything possible to 
arrive at a fair and unbiased conclusion. 

Achmetha was the old Median capital. In Old Persian it was called Hagmatana , and 

in Greek, Ecbatana. Today the city is called Hamadan. Lying in the western Iranian 
mountains, 6,000 ft. (1,829 m.) above sea level, the Persian kings made it one of their 
summer capitals. Babylon, situated in the river valley, became uncomfortably hot in 

summer. The present population of Hamadan is more than 100,000. 

The fact that the document was found in Ecbatana and not in Babylon indicates that 
Cyrus resided there when the decree was issued. The relation of this fact to the date of 
issuance of the decree has already been noted in comments on eh. 1:1. 

A roll. All documents of the Persian Empire period which have been recovered from 
the region of Mesopotamia and Persia are cuneiform tablets. Owing to the climatic 
conditions prevailing in these lands, Persian records written on perishable material such 
as papyrus or leather have not survived. However, Persian documents on papyrus and 
leather from that period have been preserved in Egypt, proving the accuracy of the 
statement here made that the official decree of Cyrus was written on a scroll, not on a 
clay tablet. Since the official, universal language of the Persian Empire was Aramaic, as 
the documents found in Egypt testify, it can be taken for granted that Cyrus’ decree was 
written in Aramaic. 



3. A decree. See on ch. 1:1-4. The superficial differences between this copy of the 
decree and that recorded in ch. 1:1-4 are due to the fact that this copy was for official use 
only, whereas the other was published. The decree made public contained a permit to 
return to Palestine, to rebuild the Temple there, and to collect money for that purpose, but 
it made no mention of the decision of Cyrus to support the erection of the Temple with 
public funds (see on ch. 1:4). However, the copy of the decree that served as a directive 
for the officers of the realm clearly stated that the cost was to be met by the royal treasury 
(ch. 6:4). Exact specifications as to methods of construction were given in this copy. 

The height thereof. The figure here given for the height of the new Temple is twice 
that of the Temple of Solomon, and its width three times as great (see 1 Kings 6:2). The 
length of the new structure is not given; that of Solomon’s Temple was 60 cu. Yet the 
new edifice is said to be “as nothing” in comparison with that of Solomon’s (Haggai 2:3), 
and those who had seen the Temple of Solomon wept they saw the foundation of the new 
building, because of the obvious inferiority of the latter (Ezra 3:12; cf. PK 564). It is not 
impossible that the length of the cubit measure of Cyrus’ decree differs somewhat from 
that of the Jews, though it is hardly possible that the difference should have been so great 
as to reconcile the apparent discrepancy between the facts noted. It is more reasonable to 
think that Cyrus gave permission for a much larger edifice than the Jews actually built. 
But with a royal subsidy (see on ch. 1:4) it is difficult to think that they would have been 
content with a structure so much inferior to that of Solomon. It may be that the 
dimensions given in Cyrus’ decree are for the front of the Temple only, which was of 
more magnificent proportions than the rest of the building. 

4. A row of new timber. See on ch. 5:8. 

The expenses. See on chs. 1:4 and 6:3. 

5. The golden and silver vessels. See on ch. 1:7-11. 

6. TatnaL Concerning Tatnai and the other men here mentioned, see on ch. 5:3, 6. 

Be ye far from thence. It may be that the author of the official report incorporated in 

Ezra 6 has abbreviated or condensed the letter of Darius, and given only the essential 
parts of it—a resume of the decree of Cyrus, and the confirming decree of Darius. The 
first important point of Darius’ letter is a warning to the officers of the satrapy “Beyond 
the River” against interfering with the work at Jerusalem. The language of the whole 
letter shows that a strong and determined king ailed the state. Some of the decrees of 
other Persian ailers, as recorded in Ezra and Esther, clearly reveal vacillation on the part 
of the issuing monarchs. 

8.1 make a decree. Darius was not content to send a copy of Cyrus’ decree to Tatnai, 
to inform him of the right of the Jews to continue working on the Temple. He confinned 
the former decree by a new one of his own, one that surpassed even the generous 
provisions of the fonner one (see on ch. 1:7). 

Expenses. Cyrus had decreed that the reconstruction of the Temple at Jerusalem be 
subsidized with public funds (v. 4). This part of the decree had probably never been 
earned out (see ch. 4:4, 5), because the Samaritans seem to have successful in frustrating 
the good intentions of Cyrus. When Darius learned from the copy of Cyrus’ decree found 
at Ecbatana that financial support had been promised the Jews, he probably inquired of 
the royal treasurer as to how much money had been spent on the Temple since the first 
decree was issued. His annoyance upon receiving the information that either little or 
nothing had been paid so far is implied by the strong language of his letter to Tatnai—“be 



ye far from thence” (v. 6), “let the work ... alone” (v. 7), “that they be not hindered” (v. 
8), “without fail” (v. 9), and especially the threats in v. 11 in case this decree should be 
ignored. 

Cyrus had only vaguely defined the source of financial help as “the king’s house” (v. 
4), which could mean that the funds were to come from the royal purse, though all public 
money was disbursed at the discretion of the king. Darius, however, ordered that the 
expenses of the men employed on the Temple be paid by the satrap of “Beyond the 
River” from the royal tribute of the province. Thus, presumably, no additional burden 
was laid upon the taxpayers. 

Many modem commentators have doubted the genuineness of this part of the decree, 
declaring it unthinkable that a Persian king could be so much interested in the Temple of 
a distant and insignificant nation. However, secular history presents us with parallel 
cases. This was Cyrus’ policy not only in regard to the Temple at Jerusalem but also in 
regard to many other sanctuaries (see on ch. 1:2). It is reported that after conquering 
Egypt, Cambyses, Cyrus’ son, had the temple of Neith at Sais cleaned, assured its 
priesthood of their customary income, and favored it with royal gifts—as the Egyptian 
kings had done before. Even Antiochus the Great gave the Jews large gifts of wine, oil, 
incense, wheat, and salt for sacrifices, and money for the completion of the Temple 
(Antiquities xii. 3. 3), in appreciation of their loyalty early in his reign. 

9. Bullocks, and rams, and Iambs. These were the chief sacrificial animals of the 
Jews—a lamb being required every morning and evening, 2 more on the Sabbath, 7 at 
each of the great feasts and at the beginning of each month, and 14 on every day during 
the Feast of Tabernacles. This would be altogether more than a thousand in the course of 
a year. Rams and bullocks were added to the lambs on the more solemn occasions. The 
only other ordinary sacrificial animal was “a kid of the goats.” 

Wheat, salt, wine, and oil. These commodities were needed for the “meat offerings” 
by which every burnt offering was accompanied (Ex. 29:40, 41; see on Lev. 2:13). 

According to the appointment. It was a most extraordinary concession to the Jews to 
allow their priests to fix the amount of support they should receive from the satrap. 

Darius must have had confidence that the Jews would not abuse his generosity. The 
integrity of men such as Daniel, Mordecai, Ezra, Nehemiah, and perhaps others, 
doubtless had made a deep impression on the monarchs under whom they served. It 
seems probable that some influential Jews were employed in the state department of the 
Persian Empire. The hand of one of these men probably had part in the preparation of this 
decree of Darius. 

10. Pray. The requirement that the good will and generosity of the king be repaid by 
sacrifices and prayers on his behalf is closely paralleled in the clay barrel inscription of 
Cyrus already mentioned (see on ch. 1:2). There the king states that he had restored the 
cult of the Babylonian gods that the Babylonians might daily ask Bel and Nabu to bless 
him and his son Cambyses with long life. That the Jews were not opposed to carrying out 
such a request can be concluded from the practice in the time of the Maccabees to offer 
sacrifices on behalf of the Seleucid kings (1 Macc 7:33). 

11. Hanged. Not hanging as we know it, but impaling, a cruel form of execution 
practiced extensively by the Assyrians. Many of their reliefs depict impaled men, mostly 
captured enemies. Two ways of impaling were known. In each, a stake with a sharp point 



was set up in the ground. The victim, nude, was then impaled by piercing him through his 
body, either from his buttocks upward or through his chest. 

Threats such as those Darius attached to this decree are common in ancient 
documents. In the light of the practice of absolute rulers in ancient times the threats in 
this decree do not seem extraordinary. People reading royal decrees in the ancient Orient 
were used to them, and often witnessed their execution. For example, the famous code of 
Hammurabi contains some 250 lines of imprecations against any who should alter its 
provisions. Darius felt that his decree was in need of strong language. The Samaritans 
had shown themselves clever in the art of defying royal commands. The decree was 
intended to frighten them, and thereby restrain them from doing further harm. 

13. Tatnai. Concerning the men here mentioned, see on ch. 5:3, 6. 

So they did speedily. Having no enmity toward the Jews, as is evident from their 
former actions and their letter to Darius, Tatnai and his fellow officers revealed no 
reluctance in carrying out the royal command. The king’s will had been made known to 
them in unmistakable words, and they proceeded to carry it out with zeal. In part, the 
rapid completion of the Temple must be attributed to their good will. This must have 
required Tatnai and his retinue to visit Jerusalem again and make a survey of the financial 
needs of the Jews and the number of sacrificial animals considered necessary for the 
Temple service (see on v. 9). 

14. They prospered. The Jews, who had experienced so many troubles and 
disappointments during recent years, could have expected no greater or more joyful 
surprise than the message of Darius’ new decree. Suddenly were fulfilled the prophecies 
of Haggai, who had reminded them that their God was the owner of silver and gold, and 
that it would be easy for Him to supply the necessary means to complete the task they 
had begun in faith (Haggai 2:8). On the day when the new foundation had been laid, the 
Lord had promised, “From this day will I bless you” (Haggai 2:19). Marvelous was the 
fulfillment. In fact, the blessings in view must have exceeded their most daring hopes. 

The other prophet of those days had asked, “Who hath despised the day of small 
things” (Zech. 4:10)? How miserable and poor their efforts seemed to be when they 
began a second time to build the house of their God. Although they had obeyed the 
prophets, and had started to build, there was fear in their hearts. They were surrounded by 
enemies. However, they had trusted in the word of the prophet, who emphatically stated 
that “the hands of Zerubbabel,” which had “laid the foundation of this house,” should 
“also finish it,” and that in this way they would know that the Lord of hosts had sent him 
to them (Zech. 4:9). 

Artaxerxes. Some older commentators who identified the Artaxerxes of ch. 4:7 as the 
false Smerdis, naturally identified Artaxerxes of ch. 6:14 also as the false Smerdis. But 
the king here mentioned is Artaxerxes I, and for two reasons: 1. It is hardly conceivable 
that Smerdis would have issued a favorable decree, after having been hostile—all within 
the 7 months of his reign. 2. Because the Artaxerxes here mentioned is listed in order 
after Darius. By the time of Ezra, Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes had all issued decrees 
regarding the Temple and its services. There appears to be a contradiction between the 
statement that Artaxerxes’ decree was required for the completion of the Temple and the 
statement in v. 15 that the Temple “was finished” during the reign of Darius. This 
apparent contradiction may be resolved on the reasonable assumption that Artaxerxes’ 
beautifying of the house of the Lord (ch. 7:27) was in a very real sense of the word a final 



finishing of the building of the Temple. Hence Ezra felt justified in including Artaxerxes 
as the third of three kings whose decrees made possible the restoration of the Temple and 
of Jerusalem (see chs. 7:27; 9:9). 

Mention of the king Artaxerxes in this verse is evidence that the book of Ezra was 
written, not in the time of Zerubbabel, but in that of Ezra, probably during the reign of 
Artaxerxes. 

15. Finished. The exact day of the completion of the Temple is given, probably also 
the day of dedication described in vs. 16-18. Adar 3 in the 6th regnal year of Darius I 
was about March 12, 515 B.C., six weeks before the Passover. 

The rebuilding of the Temple from the time the foundation stone had been laid a 
second time (Kislev 24, 2d year of Darius) to its completion, had therefore occupied 
about 4 years and 3 months, some 2 years and 3 months shorter than it had taken 
Solomon to build his Temple. The reason for this difference probably lies in the fact that 
Solomon had first to prepare a flat surface on which to erect the various buildings 
belonging to the Temple complex, a task of no small size. Although the present 
substructures of the Temple area at Jerusalem date from Herodian times or later, as far as 
they are visible, they reveal the tremendous efforts that must have been made by the early 
builders to construct a foundation platform on which the Temple and its many auxiliary 
buildings could be erected. When the exiles returned they probably found that great parts 
of this substructure were still good enough to use without expensive, time-consuming 
repair work. Furthermore, the buildings seem to have been less elaborate and numerous 
than in Solomon’s time, and probably much less lavishly decorated (see eh. 3:12). Also, a 
certain amount of building had been carried on since the time that the first decree was 
issued. Some or all of these reasons may have been responsible for the comparatively 
short period required to build the second Temple. 

Concerning the size of the new Temple, the number of subsidiary buildings, their 
arrangement and outer form, we are completely without information. The Temple of 
Solomon, or perhaps the ideal temple of Ezekiel (Eze. 40-42), may have served as a 
pattern for some parts. That this Temple, like Solomon’s, possessed auxiliary buildings, 
is evident from such texts as Ezra 8:29; Neh. 12:44; 13:4, 5, where certain rooms are 
mentioned in connection with the Temple. In some of these chambers Temple treasures 
were kept; others served as offices for certain priests. According to 1 Mace. 4:38 the 
Temple was surrounded by several courts. 

16. Kept the dedication. The report of this feast of dedication is brief, containing only 
the information that (1) it was a feast of joy, (2) a great number of sacrifices were 
offered, and (3) the Temple servants, priests, and Levites carried out the services 
prescribed by the law of Moses from that day forth. Music no doubt played a major role 
in the activities of the day of dedication, inasmuch as there had been much singing 
connected with similar occasions in earlier times (see 1 Chron. 16:4-36; 2 Chron. 29:25- 
29). 

17. An hundred bullocks. The number of sacrifices offered during this dedication 
service is small in comparison with similar services celebrated during the reigns of 
Solomon (1 Kings 8:63), Hezekiah (2 Chron. 30:24), and Josiah (2 Chron. 35:7). 
Hundreds now take the place of the thousands previously offered. 

All Israel. In v. 16 the congregation is referred to as “the children of Israel .” The 
writer is careful to present the returned exiles as “Israel,” not merely as “Judah” (see chs. 



2:70; 3:1; 4:3; 5:1). The number of he-goats offered was 12 (eh. 6:17), the number of 
tribes in the undivided kingdom. We may assume that representatives of every tribe had 
returned with Zerubbabel, and that consequently it was possible to regard the re¬ 
established people as “Israel” (see Neh. 11:20; Jer. 50:4; Eze. 37:15-19; Zech. 8:13; Mai. 
1:1). However, the great majority of the repatriated exiles were of the tribes of Judah and 
Benjamin, and were accordingly more commonly spoken of as “Judah” (Ezra 4:1, 6; 5:1; 
Zech. 8:15). Desirous of emphasizing the nobler and grander view, of seeing in the 
congregation the remnants of the whole people of God, Zerubbabel ordered this solemn 
sin offering of 12 he-goats, one for each of the tribes. Ezra followed the same procedure 
when he arrived in Jerusalem with the second group of exiles some 60 years later (Ezra 
8:35). 

18. Priests in their divisions. The completion of the new Temple was naturally 
followed by an arrangement of the ministers of the Temple, corresponding to that 
originally made by David (see 1 Chron. 23:6-23; 24:1-9). This arrangement was based 
upon the ordinances of the law concerning the respective offices of the two orders— 
priests and Levites—as given in the book of Numbers (chs. 3:6-10; 8:6-26), but the 
“courses” themselves were not established till David’s time. 

19. Kept thepassover. It should be noted that wish this verse the author returns to the 
use of Hebrew, and continues in Hebrew till eh. 7:11. That Ezra wrote parts of his book 
in Hebrew and parts in Aramaic may probably be most simply explained by the fact that 
both languages were well known to the Jews. Aramaic was the language common to the 
Persian Empire. Official decrees were written in it. 

A number of particularly solemn Passovers were celebrated in Jewish history, and 
these were accorded special attention by the writers of the Bible. Such are the Passover 
celebrated by Hezelciah after his cleansing of the Temple (2 Chron. 30), and that 
celebrated by Josiah after the completion of his reform (2 Chron. 35). Both of these 
Passovers accompanied a revival of Temple worship after a period of apostasy. Ezra 
places in the same category the Passover following the dedication of the new Temple. 

This does not mean that the exiles had not celebrated the Passover prior to the year 515 
B.C., since Ezra 3:5 contains the information that they observed “all the set feasts of the 
Lord” as soon as they arrived in their homeland. However, this first Passover after the 
completion of the building of the new Temple marked the full re-establishment of the 
regular ordinances of religion, more or less interrupted from the time of the destruction of 
the first Temple. 

Fourteenth day. The day fixed by the law of Moses (see Ex. 12:6). This was about 
April 21,515 B.c. 

20. Purified together. The translation of v. 20 as given in the KJV and RSV is 
probably correct, though the following has been defended by a number of commentators: 
“For the priests had purified themselves, while the Levites were all pure, as one man.” 
Those who follow the latter translation believe that the Levites are the ones referred to in 
the second half of v. 20 as killing the Passover for both priests and laymen, being more 
completely sanctified than the priests. Such a situation is described in 2 Chron. 29:34, 
where the Levites in the time of Hezekiah are described as being more upright in heart 
than the priests. However, most translators follow the KJV reading. This reading makes 
no difference between the priests and Levites, holding that both classes of Temple 



attendants were equally prepared for this solemn occasion, and presents priests and 
Levites as working together in the slaying of the Passover lambs. 

21. Separated themselves. Having mentioned the returned exiles, Ezra here refers to a 
second group of Israelites as talcing part in the celebration of the Passover. These must 
have been some of “the poor of the land,” left behind by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.c. “to 
be vinedressers and husbandmen” (2 Kings 25:12). During the long years of exile, when 
the priests and religious leaders were in Babylon, these ignorant, poor people seem to 
have accepted many pagan practices. The exiles had gained a new religious experience in 
the school of tribulation under the wholesome influence of men like Daniel and Ezekiel. 
Accordingly they required those who had not been to Babylon to reform their lives in 
order to belong to the new state. Some of those here referred to may have been foreigners 
who wholeheartedly accepted the religion of the Jews, and were received into the 
congregation of the Jews as equals. As at the time of the Exodus, provision was made for 
all of those who desired to join God’s people, to do so. 

22. Feast of unleavened bread. This was observed for one week, as required by the 
law (Ex. 12:15; 13:7; Lev. 23:6). On the spiritual meaning of the feast see 1 Cor. 5:8. 

King of Assyria. It is generally understood that Darius is meant here, and it is 
surprising to find him called “king of Assyria.” It is true that the Persian kings never 
called themselves “King of Assyria,” although from Cyrus until Xerxes they bore the title 
“King of Babylon” in addition to their other titles. Since Babylon had been part of 
Assyria for centuries, but had finally replaced that empire, occupying all its former 
possessions, it is possible that the name Assyria is here used as a synonym for Babylonia 
(see on 2 Kings 23:29). 

According to another interpretation, Assyria here is simply a designation for the great 
power of Western Asia, whether at the time the statement was made this power might be 
Babylonia, Persia, or some other power. Support for this view is found in recently 
discovered documents of the intertestament period, in which the Seleucid kings are called 
Assyrians. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1,2 PK 579 

3-5PK 558 

7- 10, 12PK579 

8- 12PK 598; TM 203 

14 DA 233; GC 326; PK 607, 698 

14-17, 19PK596 

CHAPTER 7 

1 Ezra goeth up to Jerusalem. 11 The gracious commission of Artaxerxes to Ezra. 27 Ezra 
blesseth God for his favour. 

1. Now after these things. The author makes a marked division between the first and 
second sections of the book by means of an expression used nowhere else in the book of 
Ezra. The actual time interval between events described in ch. 6 and in ch. 7 seems to 
have been almost 58 years—from the spring of 515 B.C. (see ch. 6:15) to the early months 
of 457 B.c. (see ch. 7:7). 

Artaxerxes. For the spelling of the king’s name see Additional Note on Chapter 4. 
With the majority of conservative scholars, this commentary holds that the Artaxerxes 
here mentioned is Artaxerxes Longimanus, who reigned from 465-423 B.C. For a 



summary of the evidence in favor of this view, see Additional Note at the close of this 
chapter. 

Ezra the son of Seraiah. Ezra was probably the great-great-grandson of Seraiah. In 
the language of the Bible writers, every descendant is a “son,” and every ancestor a 
“father.” Christ is “the son of David,” and David “the son of Abraham” (Matt. 1:1). 

Joram “begat Ozias [Uzziah]” (Matt. 1:8), his great-great-grandson (see 1 Chron. 3:11, 

12, where Uzziah’s other name, Azariah, is used). Ezra probably omits the names of his 
father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, who were undistinguished, and claims descent 
from Seraiah, the last high priest to minister in Solomon’s Temple (2 Kings 25:18). 

Azariah, the father of Seraiah, is mentioned only in the genealogical list of 1 Chron. 
6:13, 14 and in Ezra 7:1, but Azariah’s father Hilldah is no doubt the high priest of 
Josiah’s time (2 Kings 22:4-14; 2 Chron. 34:14-22). 

5. The son of Aaron. In vs. 1-5 Ezra traces his genealogy back to Aaron, the first 
high priest. A comparison with the genealogical list provided in 1 Chron. 6:3-15 shows 
that Ezra omitted six names between the Azariah and Maraioth of v. 3, which are found 
in 1 Chron. 6:7-10, and another name (Meraioth) between Zadok and Ahitub of v. 2 (see 
1 Chron. 9:11). The abbreviation of genealogies by the omission of unimportant names 
was a common practice among the Jews. A notable instance is the omission of several 
names in Matthew’s genealogy of Christ (see on Matt. 1:5, 11, 15, 17). 

Although Ezra was a descendant of Aaron, and thus belonged to the high-priestly 
family, he was not a high priest himself, but only a “priest” (Ezra 7:11, 12; Neh. 8:2). 

6. Ezra went up. See ch. 2:1, where the same expression, “went up,” is used in regard 
to the first group of returning exiles. 

Ready. Heb. mahir, a word used also in Aramaic and Egyptian to designate a skilled, 
fast-writing scribe. In the Elephantine papyri Ahikar refers to himself as “a wise and 
ready scribe,” and uses the same word mahir. He thus wished to indicate that he was not 

only a scribe but a learned man. In Egypt, where mahir had become a professional title 
for skilled scribes, such a man was highly trained in every phase of secular learning. 

Ezra, however, used his talents in the realm of religion, being a scholar “in the law of 
Moses.” See on v. 11. 

Which the Lord God. It is characteristic of Ezra’s piety never to forget that the law 
was not a mere human code given by an earthly lawgiver, but a direct, divine gift—“the 
law of the Lord” (v. 10), “the words of the commandments of the Lord, and of his statutes 
to Israel” (v. 11), and “the law which the Lord had commanded by Moses” (Neh. 8:14). 

All his request. Ezra had made a favorable impression on the king and had won his 
confidence. How this was accomplished is u nkn own. 

7. The children of Israel. The same six classes of colonists are here mentioned as 
returning under Ezra that, according to the earlier narrative (ch. 2:70), had accompanied 
Zerubbabel. The order of mention is nearly, but not quite, the same. 

Seventh year of Artaxerxes. Ezra probably counted the 7th year of Artaxerxes 
according to the Jewish custom, that is, in terms of the Jewish civil calendar year, which 
began in the fall (see Vol. II, pp. 110, 112, 138, 140). The 7th regnal year of Artaxerxes I 
began in the fall of 458 B.C. and ended in the fall of 457, according to the table on page 
108 of this volume. For an explanation of these dates and those of vs. 8, 9, see pp. 100— 
103 of this volume. 



8. He came to Jerusalem. From v. 9 it appears that the first day of the first month 
(Nisan) of the religious year had been selected for the beginning of the journey. This is 
not surprising, since the dry season was usually used for such a journey, one that a 
caravan required several months to complete. Similarly, all military campaigns were 
begun in the spring. The day of departure, according to the Jewish calendar on p. 108, 
was most probably March 27, 457 B.C. The time occupied on the way was nearly four 
months. The exiles arrived at Jerusalem on the first day of the fifth month (Ab), or 
approximately July 23, 457 B.C. That it took Ezra’s group four months to reach Jerusalem 
seems at first thought a long time, but it should not be forgotten that a caravan like his 
must have taken a number of prolonged rests, one of which is recorded as occurring at 
Ahava (eh. 8:15). The log of the march of the army of the younger Cyrus from Ephesus 
to Cunaxa near Babylon provides an actual record of such a journey. Although Cunaxa 
was reached in 91 marching days, the entire journey, including resting days, occupied 

about half a year (Xenophon Anabasis ii. 1. 6). We need not be surprised, therefore, that 
Ezra’s journey occupied four months. Some delay must almost certainly have been 
occasioned by the perils of the trek (see eh. 8:31). As to the probable route, see on eh. 
2 : 68 . 

9. The good hand. The special divine favor here referred to probably includes the 
royal response to Ezra’s request (see v. 6), and deliverance from enemies who had 
intended to attack the caravan on the way (see eh. 8:21-23, 31). 

10. Prepared his heart. Ezra was a consecrated man. The aim and ambition of his life 
was to know the will of God, to cooperate with God, and to teach others to do likewise. 
This was the man God now called to do a special work. 

11. The priest. The genealogy of vs. 1-5 implies that Ezra was priest, but v. 11 
provides the only specific statement of this fact. Nehemiah also so designates Ezra (eh. 
8:2,9). 

The scribe. Here for the first time sopher is used in the NT sense of grammateus , 
“scribe,” meaning a man trained in the exposition of the Scriptures. Ezra stands at the 
head of a line of famous Hebrew scholars, which in the time of Christ included men like 
Hillel and Gamaliel, whom the Jews considered worthy successors of Ezra. 

12. King of kings. The decree itself is quoted in vs. 12-26, written in Aramaic exactly 
as it issued from the Persian chancellery. It is closely related in form and content to the 
documents found in chs. 4 to 6, and is now, following the discovery of similar documents 
in Elephantine, recognized as genuine by even the most critical scholar. “Kings of kings” 
was a recognized title of the Persian monarchs, and is found in every Persian inscription 
of any considerable length. The title was first used by Assyrian kings, who thereby 
expressed the fact that they ruled over many vassal kings whom they retained on their 
respective thrones in conquered lands. The title was later taken over by the kings of 
Babylon (see Dan. 2:37), and then by the Persian kings when they became masters of the 
world. 

Ezra the priest. It is interesting to note that the decree does not make use of the 
ordinary Aramaic word kumra’, “priest,” but the loan word kahen , taken from the Heb. 
kohen. In Aramaic documents from Elephantine, writers also make a clear distinction 
between pagan priests, for whom they used the ordinary Aramaic word kumra’, and the 



true priests of God, whom they designated by the word, kahana’. The use of this word in 
the document of Ezra 7 therefore indicates that the decree, although approved and issued 
by the king and in his name, was composed by a Jew in the imperial chancellery. Other 
evidence found in this decree points in the same direction. 

A scribe of the law of the God of heaven. Aramaic, saphar datha’ di-’elah 

shemayya’. A correct explanation of this title was made in the 1930’s by H. H. Schaeder. 
On the basis of analogous titles he shows that it designates a high officer in the Persian 
chancellery in charge of affairs pertaining to “the law of the God of heaven.” 
Accordingly, Ezra was a reporter of Jewish religious affairs in the Persian government. 
Similarly we find in the later Parthian and Sassanide government the head of the Jewish 

population ( resh galutha’, “head of the exiles”) occasionally ranking with the highest 
government officials. Neh. 11:24 also testifies to the existence of such an office in the 
time of Artaxerxes I. We are unable to say how Ezra received this appointment, but it is 
evident that appointment to this office would make him the most influential Jew in 
Babylon. That he used his influence in the interest of his people is proved by the contents 
of the decree. 

Perfect. The Aramaic has only the word gemir , meaning “completed,” and is 
considered by most scholars to be either an abbreviated formula indicating the end of a 
document or a word meaning “issued.” In the first case the word “peace” must be 
supplied, as the KJV has done, but the second interpretation considers the text complete 
as it stands. 

And at such a time. See on eh. 4:17. 

13. All they of the people. The decree of Artaxerxes is as broad in scope as the 
proclamation of Cyrus (eh. 1:3), and gives permission not only to the Jews but to all 
Israelites of every tribe to accompany Ezra to Jerusalem. That Israelites of all the tribes 
actually went up to Jerusalem on the occasion is implied by the reference to “twelve 
bullocks for all Israel,” which those who returned with Ezra offered, on their arrival, to 
the “God of Israel” (see on eh. 8:35). 

14. Seven counselors. In Esther 1:14 the seven counselors appear as seven princes, 
who “saw the king’s face” and “sat the first in the kingdom.” No inscriptions have thus 
far been found to explain further the functions of this group. The conjecture has been 
made that it refers to the heads of the seven great Persian families, which, according to 
Herodotus (iii. 84), had privileges that went beyond those enjoyed by other families, 
including the right of unrestricted access to the royal presence. 

The law of thy God. Ezra’s commission included the duty of carrying out an 
investigation into the religious conditions in the province of Judea. For this, the law of 
God would, of course, be made the standard. The words concerning the law have 
frequently been understood by critical scholars as implying that Ezra was the author, or at 
least an editor, of the law referred to. That this view is incorrect can be seen from v. 25, 
which indicates that this law was already well known to the Palestinian Jews before 
Ezra’s arrival. It is therefore obvious that “the law of thy God” was a book, or books, 
already in the possession of Ezra, and of the Jews in Palestine as well. The nature of this 
law, already known to the Jews of Babylon and Palestine, is revealed in Neh. 8. 



15. The silver and gold. Financial affairs assume a most important role in this decree. 
Gifts which Ezra was commissioned to take to Jerusalem came from three sources—the 
king and his counselors, a collection taken among non-Jewish friends in the satrapy of 
Babylonia, and freewill offerings made by Jews resident outside of Palestine (v. 16). In 
ancient times the transmission of great sums of money was made by well-protected 
caravans. The highways of travel were never safe from robbers, and the larger the 
remittance the greater the danger of its being intercepted. Josephus relates (.Antiquities 
xviii. 9.1) that the gifts annually remitted to Jerusalem from Babylon in Roman times 
were escorted by a great number of armed men. 

Whose habitation. This phrase is similar, but not identical, to that used by Cyras in 
ch. 1:2, 3. It does not necessarily mean that Artaxerxes considered the God of the Jews a 
local deity, but simply that the location of His Temple was at Jerusalem. If a Jew such as 
Ezra was the the actual author of this decree, which was then approved by Artaxerxes 
(see v. 12), he would naturally use phraseology such as this. 

17. Buy speedily. Rather, “buy judiciously” or “with all diligence” (RSV). Artaxerxes 
was not concerned with how soon the money was to be spent, but how well. The primary 
purpose of the money sent by Ezra was to maintain the Jewish ritual (see ch. 6:9, 10). 

18. Whatsoever shall seem good. The remainder of the money was to be spent in any 
way that Ezra, acting under divine guidance, might direct. Ezra was thus free to use as 
much of the money as he deemed wise for purposes he might consider necessary, without 
asking specific permission each time. The decree thus gave him the right to use money 
for such things as repair work on the Temple or for rebuilding the wall. At the time the 
decree was written Ezra may have considered this freedom of action desirable. Later, 
when the Samaritans showed their enmity, he may have regretted not having specific 
objectives mentioned in the decree that were to be financed with the royal appropriation. 

19. The vessels also. It does not appear that these were sacred vessels originally 
belonging to the first Temple, like those Cyrus had entrusted to Zerabbabel. Rather, it 
would seem, they were part of the voluntary offering (v. 15), in which they are distinctly 
included (see ch. 8:26-28). Perhaps the vessels sent with Zerabbabel had proved too few 
for the great festivals. There are parallels in ancient history, of kings sending expensive 
vessels as gifts to other kings, or to the temples of allied nations. Artaxerxes’ gift was 
thus by no means unusual. 

20. Whatsoever more. Here the flexibility of the decree becomes apparent. Ezra is 
granted unlimited access to the royal revenue of the province of Judea, to be used for any 
purpose connected with the Temple. Within the limitations stated in v. 22, Ezra’s own 
discretion was to determine what should be done. 

King’s treasure house. Not the royal treasury at Susa or Persepolis, where tribute 
from the various provinces was stored, but the local treasury of Judea, to which the Jews 
made their remittances and from which Ezra was now authorized to draw. 

21. All the treasurers. The “decree” included in Ezra’s authorization was probably 
sent out separately to the royal treasurer resident in Judea, and to those in the satrap’s 
office who dealt with the financial matters of that province. It was hardly the intent of 
Artaxerxes that Ezra should demand the revenue of such provinces as Samaria or 
Ammon, whose inhabitants were Judea’s enemies. The Aramaic title translated 
“treasurer” appears also on objects from Persepolis. 

Ezra ... the scribe. On Ezra’s official title, see on v. 12. 



22. Unto an hundred talents of silver. According to the weight of the light 
Babylonian talent, this would be 3,013 kgs., or 3.32 tons. In addition, Ezra could require 
100 cor of wheat (22,000 liters, or 624 bu.), and 100 baths (2,200 liters, or 581 gals.) each 
of wine and oil. 

In the Babylonian contract tablets oil and wine are usually dealt with in “jars” whose 
capacity is not known. Prices for wine varied from one to eight shekels ajar, according to 
the quality of the wine and the season of the year. Compare Vol. I, p. 169. 

A requisition to the treasurer for wheat, wine, oil, and salt seems strange today, but 
was natural enough in the Persian system, where taxation was partly in kind and every 
province was required to remit to the royal court the choicest portion of its produce. 

Wine, com, oil, and salt were all produced abundantly in Palestine, which was “a land of 
corn and wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of oil olive and of honey” (2 Kings 
18:32), and, in the region about the Dead Sea, abounded with salt. 

23. Wrath against the realm. In the seventh year of Artaxerxes I there was “wrath 
against the realm” of Persia of a most serious nature. Egypt had revolted from the 
Persians c. 463 B.C., and in the following year, with the assistance of the Athenians, had 
driven the last Persian out of the country. Toward the close of 459 a vain attempt was 
made to force Athens to recall her troops. In 458 Artaxerxes resolved to attempt the 
recovery of the revolted country. Soon thereafter he issued this decree authorizing Ezra’s 
expedition to Jerusalem. History records that from the year 457 B.C. on things went well 
for the Persians in Egypt. Memphis was recovered in that year, and in 456 the Athenian 
troops were finally defeated and the province of Egypt recovered. 

And his sons. When Artaxerxes came to the throne he was still quite young, and it is 
not known how many sons he had in his seventh year. Ultimately, the number reached 18 
(Ctesias Excursus Persika 44). 

24. We certify. The older commentators have seen in the pronoun “we” either a plural 
of majesty, still in common use by royalty and perhaps comparable to the editorial “we,” 
or an indication that Artaxerxes here includes his sons. Both views, however, are 
incorrect. A better understanding of Aramaic shows that the subject of the active 
participle “certify,” or “notify,” is indefinite, and that the phrase should be translated in 
the passive sense “you are notified.” 

It shall not be lawful. On the three taxes mentioned here see on ch. 4:13. 
Documentary evidence reveals that the Egyptian priesthood was exempt from taxes 
during most of its history (see on Gen. 47:22). Although there is no documentary 
evidence confirming the same custom in Persia, the fact that this privilege was granted to 
the Jewish Temple personnel implies that the Persian priesthood also was tax exempt. 
Ezra would hardly have secured such a grant for the priests of his people if the Persian 
priesthood had not enjoyed similar privileges. 

That the policy of exempting priests from taxation is not without parallel even in the 
time of the Persians can be seen from a Greek inscription in which Darius I censures a 
certain Gadatas for ignoring the royal policy by exacting “tribute from the sacred 
cultivators of Apollo.” Antiochus the Great also granted similar privileges to the Jewish 
priesthood (Josephus Antiquities xii. 3. 3). 

25. Magistrates and judges. The closing part of the decree (vs. 25 and 26) authorizes 
Ezra to reorganize the judicial system of Judea and to be responsible for all future 

appointments of judicial officers in that province. The word shaphedn, “magistrates,” is 



simply the Aramaicized Hebrew equivalent of the word translated “judges.” The word 
has not been found in non-Jewish documents written in Aramaic, but its root verb appears 
in Jewish records found at Elephantine. Its use in the decree of Ezra 7 is one more proof 
that a Hebrew-speaking Jew, probably Ezra, was responsible for the wording of this 
document. 

Beyond the river. See on Ezra 4:10. That Ezra’s jurisdiction was not intended to 
cover the entire area of “Beyond the River” is evident from the additional explanatory 
clause, “all such as know the laws of thy God.” It assigns to Ezra’s jurisdiction only the 
Jewish portion of the population, including Jewish proselytes. 

Teach ye them. Ezra, who was probably responsible for the wording of the decree, 
must have known something about the spiritual conditions prevailing in Judea, which had 
convinced him of the need for instructing the returned exiles in the law of God. Knowing 
that his personal conviction on the matter might not carry much weight with the 
leadership in Judea, he secured royal authorization for this work in order that the Jews 
might not be tempted to slight this aspect of his program of reform. That the initiative for 
these provisions in the decree came from Ezra is implied in vs. 6, 28. 

26. Let judgment be executed. Finally, Ezra was authorized to enforce the law, with 
the power to fine, imprison, banish, or execute offenders, as he should deem right. These 
powers were always entrusted by the Persians to the civil administrators of provinces, 
who ruled as autocrats within their respective territories, responsible to the king alone. 
The grant of such far-reaching responsibilities to Ezra shows that Artaxerxes did not 
consider him merely a religious leader. He was invested with secular authority over every 
branch of the administration of the Judean province, except, perhaps, that of finance. 

27. Blessed. Having quoted the important document in Aramaic, the language in 
which it was originally issued, Ezra now proceeds in Hebrew, which continues without 
interruption to the close of the book. A true man of God, he expresses gratitude for 
answered prayer. 

Beautify the house. Ezra’s word of gratitude indicates that Artaxerxes had given 
authorization for further building activities in connection with the Temple. It is not 
known whether this work consisted of decorations only or whether it included also 
buildings. This text doubtless explains why Ezra included Artaxerxes among the kings 
whose “commandment” caused the Temple to be built (see ch. 9:9, and on ch. 6:14). 

28. Unto me. Many modem commentators have thought that only those parts of the 
book of Ezra which are written in the first person singular can be attributed to Ezra, and 
that those parts which refer to Ezra in the third person singular were written by someone 
else (see chs. 7:1-11; 10:1). However, a careful study of ancient documents shows that a 
change of pronouns is no proof of a change in authorship. Examples can be given from 
Egyptian (the Sinuhe story, see on Ex. 2:15), Assyrian (Annals of Sargon II), Aramaic 
(Ahikar story), Hebrew (Dan. 4), and Greek (Thucydides) documents, in which the same 
peculiarity appears. Even in some modem literary works writers change suddenly from 
the first to the third person or vice versa, as Kittel has shown. 

Before the king. See on v. 15. Here is further evidence that Ezra had appeared before 
Artaxerxes and his cabinet as a petitioner (see also v. 6). Although it must be assumed 
that Ezra’s tact and wisdom were responsible for much of the success that crowned his 
efforts, especially in obtaining the decree, the hand of Providence led him on step by step. 



He freely acknowledged that his success was due to God’s goodness and that God had 
worked on the hearts of the king and the rulers before whom he had appeared. 

ADDITIONAL NOTE ON CHAPTER 7 

Until the closing years of the 19th century Jews and Christians alike considered the 
Artaxerxes of the book of Ezra to be the first Persian king who bore this name. He was 
called by the Greeks Artaxerxes Longimanus (meaning “long hand”), and reigned from 
465 to 423 B.C. Since 1890, however, the situation has changed markedly. In that year a 
Belgian scholar, A. van Hoonacker, published his first study on the chronological order 
of Ezra and Nehemiah, arguing for a reversal of the traditional order and essaying to 
make Ezra one of the successors of Nehemiah. This view of the successors of Nehemiah. 
This view has won many followers in the scholarly world. Those who reverse the 
traditional order are now about equal in number to those who still adhere to it. In view of 
the importance of this question, particularly with respect to the prophecy of Dan. 9:24-27 
and its exact dating, a more detailed analysis of the problem is here given. 

Scholars who believe that Ezra followed Nehemiah can be grouped as follows: (1) 
those dating the events of Ezra 7 in the last years of the reign of Artaxerxes I, usually in 
his 37th regnal year (427 B.C.) instead of in the 7th, as in the Bible text, and (2) those 
who assign Ezra’s expedition to the 7th year of the reign of Artaxerxes II (405/04-359/58 
B.C.). 

The views of the first group need no discussion in this commentary, for they involve 
nothing more than a conjectural emendation of the text, which rejects the date as given in 
Ezra 7 and substitutes another in its place. The majority of scholars who believe the 
Ezra’s activity in Jerusalem followed that of Nehemiah belong to this first group. 

More impressive are the arguments of scholars belonging to the second group. They 
point out that the Bible does not indicate which of the three Artaxerxes of history is 
meant in Ezra 7, and that they do no violence to the Biblical record by placing the events 
of Ezra 7 and 8 in the 7th year of Artaxerxes II instead of the 7th year of Artaxerxes I. 
Since every student of the Bible will admit that the events recorded are not always 
presented in chronological order, one is not entitled, a priori, to reject a view that assigns 
Ezra 7-10 to a time after the events described in Nehemiah. A careful study of all the 
evidence is essential to a valid decision with respect to the matter. 

To begin with, it is appropriate to inquire as to the reasons why scholars forsook the 
long-held position that Ezra came to Jerusalem in the 7th year of Artaxerxes I, and 
Nehemiah in the 20th year of the same king. Of numerous arguments brought forth in 
favor of reversing the traditional order only five are of any particular significance. These 
assert: 

1. That Nehemiah knows little of Erza. If Ezra had come to Jerusalem armed with 
extensive administrative, religious, and judicial powers, as Ezra 7 implies, why does he 
not play a more important role in Nehemiah’s time? It is true that Ezra is mentioned as 
reader of the law (Neh. 8:1-6, 9), and as one of the leaders of the two processional choirs 
at the dedication of the wall (Neh. 12:36), but his activities are completely overshadowed 
by those of Nehemiah. If, on the other hand, he was a comparatively young priest of 
Aaronic descent in the time of Nehemiah, it was only natural that he should be a reader of 
the law, but without an important place in the civil administration. Later, presumably, he 
gained the ear of the Persian king and was dispatched to Judah with the extensive powers 
listed in Ezra 7. 



2. That Nehemiah is silent about the exiles who returned with Ezra. In his 
endeavor to repopulate the capital of the country, Nehemiah reviews the census of the 
various groups that returned with Zerubbabel almost a century previously (Neh. 7), but 
seems to ignore completely those who, according to Ezra 7 and 8, returned only 13 years 
earlier, if Ezra’s return took place in 457 B.C. If, however, Ezra came with about 5,000 or 
6,000 people in the time of Artaxerxes II, Nehemiah could base his repopulation 
measures on the only census available, that of Zerubbabel. 

3. That Ezra finds a commission instituted by Nehemiah. When Ezra arrived in 
Jerusalem he handed over the treasures entrusted to him by Artaxerxes to four Levites, 
who were apparently in charge of the Temple funds (Ezra 8:33). Nehemiah reports that 
during his second term of office he appointed a commission of four over the treasuries 
(Neh. 13:13), implying that such an institution did not exist before his time. Hence it is 
concluded that Ezra must have arrived at Jerusalem after the commission had been set up, 
that is, after Nehemiah’s first governorship. 

4. That the wall had been built before Ezra’s arrival. Ezra expressed his gratitude 
to God for having given “a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem” (Ezra 9:9), which apparently, 
had but recently been completed. Nehemiah, however, found only ruins, and had to 
rebuild the wall in the first year after his arrival at Jerusalem. 

5. That the high priest Johanan belonged to a later generation. Johanan is usually 
quoted as the chief witness in favor of the view that Ezra followed Nehemiah. Johanan, 
the son of Eliashib, is one of the last dignitaries, probably high priests, mentioned in the 
book of Nehemiah (Neh. 12:22, 23). Since Eliashib was high priest during Nehemiah’s 
governorship (Neh. 3:1, 20, 21; 13:4, 7), Johanan, who was either his son or grandson 
(Joiada is placed between Eliashib and Johanan in Neh. 12:22), belonged to a later 
generation. This conclusion agrees with the fact that Johanan is mentioned in a Jewish 
document as having been high priest in 410 B.C. Among the Elephantine papyri (see pp. 
79-83) is a letter written Nov. 25, 407 B.C. (according to the Persian calendar) and 
addressed to Bigvai, the Persian governor of Judea. This letter states that the writers had 
written three years earlier to “Johanan, the high priest, and his colleagues, the priests who 
are in Jerusalem” (Cowley’s edition, No. 30). 

Moreover, Johanan, the son of Eliashib, had a chamber in the Temple at Jerusalem 
when Ezra arrived in that city (Ezra 10:6). If Ezra came to Jerusalem in 457 B.C., and 
found Johanan in possession of a Temple chamber, the latter must have been an 
officiating priest at least 20 years of age (see Ezra 3:8), presumably much older. If, 
according to the papyrus mentioned, Johanan was high priest in 410 B.C., he must at that 
time have been at least 67 years old, and since his successor Jaddua (Neh. 12:11, 22) was 
high priest when Alexander the Great was traversing Palestine (332 B.C.; see Josephus 
Antiquities xi. 8. 4, 5), 78 years later, Jaddua must have been about 100 years of age. 

Those who hold that Nehemiah preceded Ezra declare that the apparent difficulty of 
conceiving that Jaddua functioned as a high priest at the age of 100 can be solved by 
assuming that Ezra arrived in Jerusalem under Artaxerxes II (405/04-359/58 B.C.). It can 
then be said that Johanan became high priest shortly before 410 B.C., as successor to 
Joiada, the son of Eliashib, Nehemiah’s contemporary. Presuming that Johanan was about 
30 years old in 410, he would have reached the age of 43 when Ezra arrived at Jerusalem 
in the 7th regnal year of Artaxerxes II, and thus had an office in the Temple, which Ezra 
could use (Ezra 10:6). If we presume further that Jaddua was born late in Johanan’s life, 



perhaps when Johanan was 40 years old, he would have reached the age of about 70 years 
at the time of Alexander’s visit. 

These are the five most important arguments that scholars set forth in favor of 
reversing the traditional sequence of the expeditions of Ezra and Nehemiah. These 
arguments will now be considered from the viewpoint of the traditional Erza-Nehemiah 
sequence. 

1. The position of Ezra in Nehemiah’s time was a normal one. Ezra arrived in 
Jerusalem in 457 B.C. armed with great powers, but not as governor like Nehemiah, 13 
years later. Ezra had gained the favor of the king, who authorized him to return to Judea 
and reorganize the judicial system according to Jewish laws (see Ezra 7:26). He also 
received far-reaching financial grants and apparently the right to fortify the city. During 
the rebellion of Megabyzos, satrap of “Beyond the River” (see p. 62), to which the 
province of Judea belonged, the Samaritans may have taken the opportunity of 
communicating directly with the king, assuring him of their own loyalty but at the same 
time accusing the Jews of sinister intent in rebuilding their city wall. Artaxerxes, 
vacillating by nature and an opportunist, may have gratefully accepted the declaration the 
Samaritans made, hoping that their loyalty would bring difficulties to the rebellious 
Megabyzos in his own satrapy, and allowed the Samaritans to call a halt to the rebuilding 
of the Jerusalem wall. Not satisfied with merely stopping the activity of the Jews, 
however, the Samaritans may have demolished parts of it and burned certain gates (see 
onNeh. 1:3). 

After a reconciliation between Megabyzos and Artaxerxes had taken place, normal 
relations with the satrapy “Beyond the River” were restored, and Nehemiah heard from 
his brother (see on Neh. 1:2) of what had happened in Judea during the time connections 
with that province had been severed. Thereupon Nehemiah requested the king, whose 
favor he enjoyed, to be sent to Jerusalem with full authority to rebuild the wall (Neh. 1 
and 2). 

Although Nehemiah received full authority to rebuild the wall, he proceeded with 
utmost caution upon his arrival in Jerusalem, fully aware of the power and persistence of 
his enemies. His initial secrecy (Neh. 2:12-16), together with the determination with 
which he later faced opposition to his work, shows how well he was qualified to complete 
the task Ezra had been engaged in, but had been prevented from completing. 

For this reason Ezra may have felt it wise to remain in the background until the work 
on the wall was finished. Ezra may also have been accused by his enemies among the 
Jews of causing unrest and friction between Judah and its neighbor nations because he 
expelled the heathen wives from Jewish homes when he returned to Jerusalem (Ezra 9 
and 10). Prudence may therefore have dictated a course of action which at first made it 
appear that Nehemiah had little to do with Ezra. 

However, with the wall completed and nothing serious to fear, Nehemiah would 
naturally accord Ezra his rightful place in the affairs of the nation. At the dedication of 
the wall, he called on Ezra to lead one of the two processional choirs of praise, while he 
directed the second one himself (Neh. 12:36, 38). It was only fitting that the two 
processions should be led by the two men who had been so prominent in the work of 
restoring the wall. 

Later, when the festival season arrived, Ezra was the undisputed religious leader and 
directed the activities of the people (Neh. 8:1-6, 9, 13). This shows that Nehemiah did 



not ignore Ezra, but accorded him his rightful place as soon as conditions pennitted it. It 
is not true, as has been claimed, that Ezra’s name can be dropped from Neh. 8 and 12 
without the slightest consequence to the narrative. If this were done, one of the two 
processions at the time of the dedication of the wall would have no leader. The 
explanation that makes Ezra first the predecessor, and later the colaborer, of Nehemiah is 
fully consistent with known facts. 

2. Nehemiah used the oldest census list available. That Nehemiah used the census 
list of ZerubbabeTs time as a basis for his measures to repopulate Jerusalem (Neh. 7) 
does not imply that he ignored those exiles who had recently returned with Ezra, or that 
they had not yet returned. Our knowledge of the events of that time are only fragmentary. 
It is possible that the exiles accompanying Ezra had been more willing to live in 
Jerusalem than had those of ZerubbabeTs time, a situation that would have led Nehemiah 
to review the earlier census list. Another reason for consulting the oldest available list 
may have been the fact that the 50,000 exiles of ZerubbabeTs expedition were more 
equally distributed over the country than the comparatively smaller group that arrived in 
Jerusalem with Ezra. Since ZerubbabeTs list mentions 45 groups, excluding servants and 
entertainers, and Ezra’s list only 18 groups, it is evident that the first list provided a better 
representation of the population quotas than the latter. The fact that Ezra’s list is not 
mentioned in Neh. 7 does not prove that it did not exist in Nehemiah’s time. 

3. Nehemiah did not organize a new treasurer’s office. It is false to assume that 
Nehemiah, during his second governorship, instituted treasurers for the first time. The 
report of Neh. 13:10-14 clearly states that on his arrival at Jerusalem the second time 
Nehemiah found that for some time no payments of tithe had been made by the people 
and that the Temple personnel had therefore been forced to cultivate the fields in order to 
make a living. Nehemiah rectified this situation immediately upon his return. By 
persuading the Jews to resume tithe paying he succeeded in recalling the Levites and 
singers to the Temple. Treasurers would be needed to handle the funds, and four men 
were therefore appointed. The mention of four treasurers in Ezra 8:33 does not warrant 
the conclusion that it was necessarily customary to have all Temple funds handled by a 
commission of four. To assume that such a commission did not exist before Nehemiah’s 
second term of service is without factual basis. 

4. Ezra thanked God for the permission to build a wall. If the reconstruction of the 
history of Ezra’s activity as reviewed briefly under No. 1 accords with the facts, Ezra was 
empowered to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem at the time of his return in 457 B.c. If so, it is 
not strange to find him thanking God (Ezra 9:9) for influencing the kings of Persia to give 
Israel a “reviving” (Cyrus and Artaxerxes I), to assist Israel in setting up the house of 
their God (Cyrus and Darius I), and to “give” them “a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem” 
(Artaxerxes I). It should be noted that Ezra does not state that the wall had already been 
finished. His words could be understood in this sense only if other evidence were 
forthcoming that proved that the building of the wall had been completed before his 
prayer was uttered. But taken alone, the statement may as well be interpreted to mean that 
by God’s grace a permit had been granted to go forward with the rebuilding of the wall. 
The words do not imply that the wall was already finished, and this text cannot be taken 
as evidence that Ezra’s reform, described in chs. 9 and 10, took place after the events 
recorded in the book of Nehemiah. 



5. The age of Johanan was not abnormal. There is no reason to doubt that the 
Johanan mentioned in a Jewish document from Elephantine as high priest in 410 B.C. is 
the Johanan, son Eliashib, of Neh. 12:22, 23. Most probably he was also the man in 
whose office Ezra wept (Ezra 10:6). Even if at the time of Ezra’s return to Jerusalem in 
457 B.C. Johanan was already a respected priest of about 30 years of age, and had his own 
office adjacent to the Temple, he could still be high priest in 410 B.C., at the age of 
between 70 and 80 years, when the afore-mentioned letter of the Jews of Elephantine was 
written to him. 

The only difficulty in this interpretation is in connection with Jaddua, if he was 
Johanan’s successor as high priest and was still officiating in Alexander’s time, 75 years 
after the Elephantine letter to Johanan, as Josephus seems to indicate (Antiquities xi. 8. 4, 
5). However, this difficulty appears to be more serious than it actually is. Even if 
Josephus is correct in claiming that the high priest of Alexander’s time was Jaddua, there 
is no proof that this was the same Jaddua as the one mentioned in Neh. 12:11, 22. The 
book of Nehemiah itself knows of another Jaddua, mentioned as a family head who 
signed the covenant of Nehemiah’s time (Neh. 10:21). Hence, the Jaddua of Neh. 12:11, 
22, who succeeded Johanan as high priest, could have been the grandfather of a high 
priest by the name of Jaddua who officiated in the Temple at the time of Alexander’s 
visit. 

It should be remembered that the historian Josephus made at least one serious mistake 
in his narration of the history of this time by making Sanballat a contemporary of 
Alexander (Antiquities xi. 8. 2, 3). We know from the Bible and from the contemporary 
records found at Elephantine that Sanballat lived in the time of Nehemiah (see on Neh. 
2 : 10 ). 

It is therefore altogether possible that he also confused the names of the Jewish high 
priests, though it would not therefore be necessary to assume that the story of 
Alexander’s visit to Jerusalem must be considered legendary. 

From the above discussion it is obvious that the evidence adduced in favor of 
considering Ezra as later than Nehemiah is at best very weak. In recognition of this fact, 
many scholars have declined to reverse the traditional sequence. Furthermore, such a 
proposed reversal involves the defenders of the reversal theory in some of the same 
difficulties they seek to avoid. This can be seen from the two following points. 

1. The age of Meremoth. When Ezra arrived at Jerusalem in 457 B.C. he delivered 
the treasures, brought up from Babylon, to the priest Meremoth, the son of Uriah (Ezra 
8:33). This same Meremoth is mentioned 13 years later as an active supporter of 
Nehemiah and an enthusiastic builder of two sections of the wall (Neh. 3:4, 21). No 
difficulties are involved in the same man’s carrying out the various tasks attributed to him 
in the afore-mentioned texts, during the course of 13 years, from 457 to 444. 

If, however, as claimed, Ezra arrived in 397 B.C., in the 7th year of Artaxerxes II, 47 
years after Nehemiah’s wall was built, it was a very old Meremoth who received the 
treasures from Ezra. Even if Meremoth was 25 years old at the time he was responsible 
for building two wall sections, he would have reached the age of 72 when he officiated as 
one of the treasurers at the time of Ezra’s return. While this would certainly be possible, 
it should be noted that the new theory automatically assigns to Meremoth an age the 
proponents of that theory declare is incredible for Johanan. 



Another point to remember is that in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah each high priest 
presumably served for life, and it is only to be expected that those holding the office 
would be advanced in years toward the close of their successive terms of service. Thus 
Aaron served as high priest to the age of 123, Eli to the age of 98, and Jehoiada to the age 
of 130 (Num. 33:39; 1 Sam. 4:15; 2 Chron. 24:15). 

2. The age of Ezra. A much greater difficulty for the holders of the reversal theory 
is encountered in Ezra’s age, if he arrived at Jerusalem 47 years after Nehemiah. 
Proponents of the new theory represent Ezra as the great religious leader in the activities 
described in Neh. 8, and as one of the two leaders at the dedication of the wall. But one 
chosen to lead out in these activities instead of the high priest must have been a man of 
distinction and a most influential person—hence, not a youth. It is difficult to imagine 
one selected for these roles as being less than 40 years of age, or that Nehemiah would 
have chosen him unless he was known for specific and important achievements 
accomplished prior to that time. Yet to allow Ezra a respectable age in Nehemiah’s time 
leads inevitably to a ridiculously high age for him at the time of his supposed return from 
Babylon 47 years later, in the year 397 B.C. 

Recognizing this serious difficulty, many scholars who reverse the Biblical order of 
Ezra and Nehemiah either delete Ezra’s name from texts that associate him with 
Nehemiah, or arbitrarily assign his expedition to the 37th year of Artaxerxes I. For 
readers of this commentary it is sufficient to point out that both of these proposals are 
based on deliberate alterations of the Bible text. The conservative student of the Bible 
finds no reason for reversing the order of the arrival of Ezra and Nehemiah as given in 
the Bible. Such a transposition not only does not solve all the difficulties it proposes to 
disposes of, but creates new ones, and renders a reconstruction of the history of that time 
most difficult. We cannot ignore either the statements of Inspiration or the known facts of 
history. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1-28PK 607-614 
1 DA 233; PK 698 
1-5PK 608 
6 PK 609 

9 DA 233; PK 611,617, 698 

10 PK 608, 623 

11.12 PK 610 

12.13 PK 607 
12-26GC 326; LS 58; IT 52 
13 PK 611 
14,15,20,23 PK 610 
24-26PK 611 

27,28 PK 612 
28 PK 614 

CHAPTER 8 

1 The combinations of Ezra, who returned from Babylon. 15 He sendeth to Iddo for 
ministers for the temple. 21 He keepeth a fast. 24 He committeth the treasures to the 
custody of the priests. 31 From Ahava they come to Jerusalem. 33 The treasure is 
weighed in the temple. 36 The commission is delivered. 



1. This is the genealogy. The list of exiles presented in vs. 1—14 parallels that of eh. 
2:3-19, repeating for the most part the same family names, though not in exactly the 
same order. The numbers here are in each case much smaller, always less than one third 
and sometimes less than one twelfth. At the most, three new families of colonists are 
mentioned—those of Shechaniah (v. 5), Joab (v. 9), and Shelomith (v. 10), but in two of 
these cases the reading of the name is not certain. On the whole, Ezra was accompanied 
to Jerusalem by members of the same families as represented by those who were with 
Zerubbabel, though with Ezra there were fewer families, and fewer members in each 
family. Ezra’s list is thus much shorter than that of Zerubbabel, who had returned some 
80 years before. 

Altogether, 1,754 men are listed, but for a few groups no numbers are given. 
Estimating three to four women and children to every man, the total number of men, 
women, and children who returned with Ezra was approximately 8,000. That Ezra’s 
group should be smaller in comparison with that of Zerubbabel 80 years earlier can easily 
be explained. The same considerations that kept many back then were even more pressing 
now. In the Orient it is not easy to detach a family from the locality in which it has lived 
for a long period of time. By now, the Jews who remained in the land of exile had been 
there for almost a century and a half. Excavations of Nippur have brought to light 
numerous documents that show that many wealthy Jews lived in that region of 
Mesopotamia during the reign of Artaxerxes I. Hence, it may have been a difficult task 
for Ezra and his fellow leaders to convince as many to return as did accompany him. 
These returning colonists could expect only a hard pioneering life in the old homeland, 
with far fewer comforts than in Babylonia. In view of these considerations it is surprising 
to find that Ezra succeeded in persuading almost 2,000 families to cast in their lot with 
their brethren in the old homeland. 

2. Of the sons. In v. 2 two priestly families, and one, of the house of David, are 
mentioned. The number of men belonging to each of the three families is not given, as is 
also true of the first family mentioned in v. 3. These numbers may have dropped out in an 
early copy of the list. Thus it is impossible to give the exact number of returning exiles. 

Hattush. The punctuation of the KJV obscures the fact that Gershom was a son of 
Phinehas, Daniel of Ithamar, etc. At the time the KJV was translated the semicolon 
represented a greater break than a colon; the reverse is now true. Furthermore, though a 
remote descendant of David, Hattush was a grandson of Shechaniah (v. 3), as is evident 
from 1 Chron. 3:22, 23. Verse 2 should close with the name Shechaniah, not with 
Hattush. 

3. Pharosh. For this name and those of the following verses also mentioned in the list 
of Zerubbabel’s time, see on eh. 2. 

5. Shechaniah. A name has been lost in copying, either between the words “of the 
sons” and “of Shechaniah,” or between “Shechaniah” and “the son of Jahaziel.” The 
LXX supports the reading, “Of the sons of Zattu, Shechaniah, the son of Jahaziel.” Zattu 
is mentioned in eh. 2:8. 

10. Shelomith. As in v. 5 there seems to be an omission of a name, which the LXX 
supplies by reading, “Of the sons ofBani, Shelomith, the son of Josephiah.” Bani appears 
as the head of a family in eh. 2:10. 



13. The last sons. Probably the younger sons of Adonikam are meant. The families of 
the older sons seem to have returned already in ZerubbabeTs time (eh. 2:13). The RSV 
reads, “those who came later.” 

15. The river. The river, or canal, called Ahava in vs. 21, 31, is otherwise unknown. 
The Ezra record leaves the impression that it was rather centrally located in Babylonia, 
for it was easy to make contact with the Levites, to whom an additional appeal was sent 

from that place (see vs. 15-20). Some have considered it equivalent to the Talmudic ’Ihi , 

which they identify with the modem Hit , northwest of Babylon. 

Sons of Levi. The reason for the absence of Levites is probably the same as that 
discussed in connection with eh. 2:40, where the small number of returning Levites is 
apparent (see also on eh. 8:1). 

16. Then I sent. The text seems to indicate that Ezra was not only surprised but 
perturbed that no Levites had responded to his appeal. Without them his caravan seemed 
incomplete, particularly in view of his desire to bring about a revival (see eh. 7:10, 14- 
28; cf. chs. 9, 10). That he sent “men of understanding” in addition to the nine family 
heads mentioned, to make a last and urgent appeal to the Levites for participation in the 
return journey, is significant. These two men, although they had no official title or 
function, were either especially eloquent or persuasive, or were considered otherwise 
exceptionally qualified for the task at hand. 

17. Casiphia. The location of this place is unknown. Some have suggested that it was 
a religious center of the Babylonian Jewry, others that a school was located there where 
young Levites were trained as teachers for the schools of the synagogues. It is worthy of 
notice, in passing, that Iddo, the village head of this center of Levites, belonged to the 
technically inferior group of Temple servants called Nethinims (see on eh. 2:43). 

18. By the good hand. This is Ezra’s usual mode of acknowledging divine providence 
(see chs. 7:6, 9, 28; 8:31). Similar expressions also occur inNehemiah (eh. 2:8, 18), but 
not elsewhere in Scripture. 

A man of understanding. Heb. ’ish sekel , considered by some commentators as a 
proper name, but without sufficient reason. No such name is known to have existed. If 
’ish sekel is taken as a proper name we are confronted with the further difficulty of 
having to assume that the name of his ancestors and the number of Levites in his family 
group have been lost from the list. The name of this man of discretion or prudence is 
given as Sherebiah, who is mentioned more than once in Nehemiah’s time as a chief 
Levite (Neh. 8:7; 9:4, 5). 

And Sherebiah. The Hebrew conjunction we, “and,” should be rendered “namely” 
(RSV) or “even,” so that the text reads, “they brought us a man of understanding, ... 
namely Sherebiah.” 

20. David and the princes. There is no record in either Kings or Chronicles of 
David’s increasing the number of Temple servants, though such an arrangement accords 
well with other arrangements he is known to have made. The original Nethinims were 
probably the Gibeonites (see on Joshua 9:21; Ezra 2:43). 

Expressed by name. The narrator evidently considered it necessary to state that a list 
of names of these Nethinims had been forwarded by Iddo to Ezra, probably by way of 
credentials, but he does not consider it necessary to insert the list in this account. 



21.1 proclaimed a fast. Fasting was usually symbolic of repentance, and often 
accompanied a disaster that had occurred or was expected. In this case, however, it was 
held in connection with prayer for a safe journey. The great responsibility of bringing 
these thousands of people safely to Judea rested heavily on Ezra, as vs. 21 and 22 
indicate. The urgent need of the expedition for divine protection on the way was 
especially real to the members of the caravan, because Ezra, who desired to convince the 
king of the power of the true God, either had not asked for an armed escort or had 
declined to accept one (v. 22). Nehemiah, however, had no scruples about traveling with 
an escort (Neh. 2:9), which was no unnecessary luxury on so dangerous a journey 
through long stretches of sparsely populated territory. Ezra was folly aware of the 
existing dangers that confronted a group of unarmed exiles and their great quantity of 
treasure. Knowing that they needed divine protection more than anything else, but 
knowing also that God’s presence would be assured only if no sin stood between the 
people and their God, he ordered them to fast and “afflict” (humble) themselves, meaning 
that they should search their lives and remove every known sin before setting forward on 
their way to Judea. 

Our little ones. This shows that in Ezra’s time all the men were accompanied by their 
families, while in Zerubbabel’s time most families had remained behind for a time (see 
on Ezra 2:64). 

22. The enemy in the way. See on v. 21. Verse 31 implies that no imaginary foe is 
referred to here. It may be Ezra knew that the Samaritans were waiting to intercept the 
caravan, or that some of the Arab tribes, who owed no allegiance to Persia, had learned of 
the caravan and were planning to attack it from ambush and plunder it. 

24. Sherebiah, Hashabiah. These men and their ten associates were Levites, but not 
priests as the English translation implies (vs. 18, 19). Preceding “Sherebiah” is the 

preposition le. This is not translated in the KJV. The LXX here reads “and.” Thus 
translated, the meaning of the passage would be that Ezra appointed 12 chief priests, and 
in addition to them 12 Levites, namely, Sherebiah, Hashabiah, and ten of their 
colleagues—a total of 24 men—to be responsible for the safe transmission of the 
treasures. 

25. Weighed unto them. The silver and gold were in bars or ingots, not in coined 
money. The Persians used coined money at this time, but the treasury kept the bulk of its 
stores in bars (.Herodotus iii. 96). 

26. Silver. Any attempt to express the value of the gold, silver, and bronze here listed, 
in terms of modern values, would fail to account for their true value at that time in 
purchasing power. A rough estimate of the total value, as determined by the weight of the 
three metals, would perhaps be more than 3 million dollars. Even critical scholars 
recognize that this detailed list of treasures and the list of family heads returning with 
Ezra bear the stamp of genuineness. If the book of Ezra were merely fiction, the author 
would hardly have devoted so much space to tedious lists of the returning exiles or have 
itemized the treasures. 

Although a considerable portion of this treasure may have come from the royal purse, 
much of it was donated by the wealthy Jews of Persia and Babylonia, and some by their 
Gentile friends (see ch. 7:15, 16). While the amount of treasure carried back to Judea 
seems large, it should not be forgotten that the wealth of Persia at this time was immense 
(see Dan. 11:2). According to Herodotus (iii. 94, 95) India paid an annual tribute of 360 



talents of gold dust (13.5 tons; 12.3 metric tons), Babylonia 1,000 talents of silver (37.7 
tons; 34.3 metric tons), and large amounts were paid by other satrapies of the empire. The 
total revenues of the empire are given by Herodotus as 14,560 Euboeic talents. In 
comparison with this vast sum, the treasure carried to Judea by Ezra does not appear 
excessive, as some commentators have suggested. 

27. Vessels of fine copper. The translation is correct, but it is not known what kind of 
vessels is meant or what it was that made these copper vessels “precious as gold.” Some 
have thought they were highly polished and glittered like gold, others, that it was the 
highly valued orichalcum, an amalgam of brass. 

28. Ye are holy. Consecrated to God by their office, the priests and Levites were the 
proper custodians of consecrated things. 

29. The chambers. These rooms were on either side of the main building in the 
Temple court (see 1 Kings 6:5), partly as chambers for the priests, partly as storerooms 
(see Neh. 13:5). 

31. The twelfth day. On the first day of the month the company of travelers began to 
assemble (eh. 7:9), but during the three days’ encampment at the appointed place of 
meeting (eh. 8:15) Ezra discovered that no priests or Levites had responded to his appeal. 
Thereupon he took the measures described in eh. 8:16-20, to induce certain Levites and 
Nethinims to accompany them. Upon the arrival of these men Ezra ordained a fast to 
supplicate divine protection for the journey, and committed the sacred treasures to the 
care of the priests and Levites. Eight more days elapsed while these preparations for 
departure were being made, and the start from the river Ahava did not actually take place 
till the 12th day. 

Such as lay in wait. Ezra’s fears were justified, and the dangers were real, but faith in 
divine protection was rewarded. We are not told how deliverance from their enemies was 
accomplished, but God in His own way took care of those who were consecrated to Him 
and who placed their trust in Him. The hand of God led Ezra and his fellow travelers 
safely through all the perils of the way, and brought them without loss or damage to their 
destination. 

32. We came to Jerusalem. As in the earlier story of the return under Zerubbabel 
nothing is reported about the route taken or the experiences of the long journey of four 
months (PK 617). On the probable route from Babylonia to Judea, see on ch. 2:68. 

Abode there three days. After the tiresome journey a brief period of complete rest 
was necessary. Like Nehemiah (Neh. 2:11), Ezra was content with a rest of three days. 

33. Weighed. On the fourth day Ezra discharged his commission to present to the 
Temple treasury the various gifts from Babylonia. In doing so he appeared in person 
before the priests and Levites, who were in charge of the Temple, and transferred to them 
the entire offering of gold, silver, and vessels listed in vs. 25-27. 

Meremoth. He was one of the heads of the priestly order, under both Ezra and 
Nehemiah. He is mentioned as repairing two sections of the wall of Jerusalem when 
Nehemiah was governor (Neh. 3:4, 21), and as one of those who signed the covenant 
between God and Israel that was later concluded under the guidance of Ezra and 
Nehemiah, in 444 B.c. (Neh. 10:5). 

Eleazar. Being, like Meremoth, a priest, Eleazar is perhaps the individual of that 
name mentioned as taking part in the dedication of the wall in Nehemiah’s time (Neh. 
12:42). 



Jozabad. Jozabad and Noadiah were chief Levites. The former name occurs again in 
Ezra 10:23; Neh. 8:7; 11:16. 

34. The weight was written. Not only were the ingots and vessels counted and 
weighed, but an inventory was made by the priests in charge of the Temple, and the 
weight of every vessel noted. Such was the care taken to prevent the embezzlement of 
Temple property by its custodians. It also relieved Ezra of further responsibility and 
protected him against possible later accusations. In Mesopotamia the smallest business 
transaction was documented, and Ezra was no doubt required to send back to the royal 
archives a signed receipt of delivery, as evidence that the provisions of the decree had 
been complied with. 

35. Burnt offerings. Like their predecessors under Zerubbabel, who had made an 
offering for “all Israel” at the dedication of the Temple (eh. 6:17), the newly arrived 
exiles, also apparently representatives of all Israel, offered for the whole nation. The 
classes of animals offered are the same on both occasions. The number of he-goats is 
identical, but in every other case the number of animals is far less than upon the former 
occasion. This is consistent with the comparatively small number of those who returned 
under Ezra. In each category the number, except for the lambs, was divisible by 12. The 
number 77 is difficult to explain, unless emphasis was thereby given to the number 7, as 
some of the older commentators have suggested. 

36. They delivered. The change in pronouns from the first to the third person plural is 
no evidence of difference in authorship (see on eh. 7:28). It is possible that this verse 
summarizes what Ezra had already done on his journey from the east to Jerusalem. 

Lieutenants. Eleb. ’achashdarpenim, the equivalent of the Persian term translated 
“satrap” (see on Esther 3:12). The satrap of “Beyond the River” had his seat at either 
Aleppo or Damascus, and it seems more than probable that Ezra’s caravan had stopped at 
the residence of the satrap and presented to him the royal authorization for his mission. 
After his arrival at Jerusalem Ezra must also have informed the local governor of his 
commission and delivered to the revenue officers the financial decree of the king (eh. 
7:21, 22). Ezra adds that he received the cooperation of all these officials. The Persians 
are seldom found in opposition to Jewish interests. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

15-36PK 612-619 

15 PK 612 

16 PK 614 

17-22PK 615 
21,23 PK 616 
21-23PK 619; IT 282 
24,25,28,29 PK616 

31 PK 617 
33-36PK 619 


CHAPTER 9 


4 Nichol, F. D. (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible 
with exegetical and expository comment. Commentary Reference Series (Ezr 7:1). 
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 



1 Ezra mourneth for the affinity of the people with strangers. 5 He prayeth unto God with 
confession of sins. 

1. When these things were done. Some considerable time must have elapsed since 
Ezra’s arrival at Jerusalem. He had reached the city on the first day of the 5th month (ch. 
7:9), rested 3 days (ch. 8:32), and on the 4th day of the same month had transferred the 
treasure to the Temple authorities. It was not till the 17th day of the 9th month that the 
matter of the mixed marriages was taken in hand (ch. 10:8, 9). We cannot suppose that 
action was long delayed after the matter came to Ezra’s attention. 

The princes. It is remarkable that complaint on a matter of religious transgression 
came from the secular, not from the ecclesiastical, authorities of the city. The reason for 
this unusual situation is the fact that the religious dignitaries of the nation not only 
condoned the practice but were also guilty (v. 2). Since close relatives of Jeshua, the 
former high priest, had married foreign wives it is not strange to find that a movement for 
reform in this matter did not originate with the priests. When the religious leaders 
themselves were implicated it was understandable that the inferior orders should remain 
silent. By God’s good providence, however, it often happens that when things have come 
to such a pass, and the ministers are corrupt, lay people are raised up to take the initiative 
to secure religious reform. 

According to their abominations. The complaint does not claim that the Jews had 
already adopted the idolatrous practices of the pagans about them, but that they were 
associating with these heathen neighbors. The foreign wives of these backslidden Jews 
had undoubtedly introduced idolatrous rites into their homes. 

The Canaanites. Mention of eight nations of antiquity with whom admixture had 
taken place does not necessarily mean that wives had actually been taken from each of 
the eight groups listed. It is possible that the Hittites, Perizzites, Jebusites, and Amorites 
no longer even existed as distinct ethnic groups. The princes had in mind the prohibitions 
of the Pentateuch such as that of Deut. 7:1-4, where these nations are enumerated, and 
drew Ezra’s attention to the fact that these prohibitions had been violated. 

2. The holy seed. Compare Isa. 6:13. However much the people of Israel polluted 
themselves by transgression, they were still His people, by prophetic announcement and 
by His grace, since the time of their rejection had not yet arrived. The Jews had been 
ordained “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation” (Ex. 19:6), “separated ... from all the 
people that are upon the face of the earth” (Ex. 33:16), a “peculiar people,” that is, God’s 
own (see on 1 Peter 2:9). 

Chief in this trespass. The leaders were the chief offenders (ch. 10:18). A similar, or 
even more serious, defection of the leading classes took place in Nehemiah’s time (Neh. 
6:17, 18; 13:4,28). 

3.1 rent my garment. Rending the clothes was a common Oriental mode of 
expressing grief (see Gen. 37:29, 34; 1 Sam. 4:12; 2 Sam. 1:2; 2 Kings 18:37; Job 1:20; 
2:11, 12; Matt. 26:65). In Babylon, whence Ezra came, marriages with pagans had 
probably not yet become customary. Ezra was therefore shocked when he learned the 
extent to which this sin had made inroads among the returned exiles. He expressed his 
feelings in typical Oriental fashion, by first rending both his outer and his inner gannents, 
then tearing his hair and beard, and finally by sitting down astonished, motionless and 
speechless, until the time of the evening sacrifice. Such a manifestation of horror and 
amazement was well calculated to impress those whose spiritual leader he had become. 



Plucked off the hair. This practice is not mentioned elsewhere in Scripture, though it 
is found in the Apocrypha (Apocryphal Esther 14:2; etc.). 

Astonied. Compare Dan. 4:19; 8:27, where the same word is used in the same sense. 

4. Trembled. Not so much a reference to God-fearing persons as such (see Isa. 66:2), 
but to all who were alarmed at the transgression of the commands of God (Ezra 10:3) and 
the threats of the law against transgressors (Deut. 7:4). 

The evening sacrifice. As morning is the time for business in the East, we may 
assume that the princes had visited Ezra early in the day, certainly before noon. The 
evening sacrifice was offered approximately at three o’clock in the afternoon (see 
Josephus Antiquities xiv. 4. 3; see also on Ex. 12:6). 

5.1 arose up. The time of sacrifice was also the appointed time for prayer, especially 
for a prayer in which a confession of sin was foremost or one of concern to the nation as 
a whole. Ezra probably felt that supplications for forgiveness would be most appropriate 
at the time when the sacrifice, which represented confession and forgiveness, was being 
offered. 

Rent my garment. This second rending of his garments was not only a renewed 
indication of the depth of sorrow he felt, but also no doubt had the purpose of impressing 
the people who “were assembled” unto him (v. 4) with the seriousness of the situation, 
and to stir them up to repentance. 

6.1 am ashamed. Jeremiah had complained that in his days those who “committed 
abomination ... were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush” (Jer. 6:15; 8:12). Ezra, 
possibly with these words in his thoughts, assures God in his prayer that he is deeply 
moved with shame for the sins of his people. 

8. A nail. The nail, or peg, here mentioned has been taken by some commentators— 
Luther, Keil, and others—to be a nail in the wall (see Isa. 22:23, 25) on which utensils 
could be hung. The meaning would be that the people of God were sustained by this nail. 
Others have seen in it the tent peg, and thus symbolic of a sure abode. 

9. The kings of Persia. While Ezra deplored the spiritual condition of the people, he 
is nevertheless grateful for the privileges granted by the Persian kings. Practically every 
monarch thus far had shown favor to the Jews. Cyrus had granted the first penuit to 
return and build the Temple (Ezra 1), Cambyses had favored the Jews of Egypt, as we 
know from the Elephantine papyri, Darius I had renewed the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 6), 
Xerxes had granted unprecedented privileges to the Jews throughout the empire (Esther 
8-10), and Artaxerxes I had now made new and far-reaching grants (Ezra 7). The only 
exception had been the false Smerdis, who actively hindered the Jews during the few 
months of his reign. 

Set up the house. See on chs. 6:14; 7:27. 

To give us a wall. It has already been pointed out in the Additional Note on ch. 7 that 
this statement does not necessarily mean that Ezra found a completed wall upon his 
arrival at Jerusalem. He refers to the several grants made by the Persian kings, 
particularly to permission to rebuild the wall. Ezra, who had been invested with authority 
to work on the wall, could therefore rightly say that God had extended mercy to them “in 
the sight of the kings of Persia, ... to give us a wall in Judah and in Jerusalem.” Possibly, 
as some think, the “wall” is figurative and denotes protection (see Zech. 2:5). 

11. The land. The quotation from “the prophets” does not appear elsewhere in the 
OT, and must therefore either be from a noncanonical, but inspired, writer, or a free 



quotation giving the consensus of prophetic teaching on the subject. The first part of the 
quotation refers to the Mosaic age (see Deut. 7:1-3). The author of the book of Kings 
makes similar references to “the prophets” (2 Kings 17:23; 21:10; 24:2). The purpose of 
such references is to represent the truth in question as one frequently mentioned (see on 
Matt. 2:23). 

It is true that elsewhere in Scripture (except for Deut. 7:1-3) there is no specific 
prohibition of marriages with Canaanites as such, though in the remarks made in Judges 
3:6 (in the Hebrew Bible Judges is counted among the “Former Prophets,” see Vol. I, p. 
37) such marriages are reproved as occasioning the seduction of Israelites to idolatry. 
Also, in the prophetic descriptions of the whoredoms of Israel with the various local 
Baals, and in the general condemnations of apostasy, the transgression of this prohibition 
is implicitly included. This certainly justifies the general statement that God had 
forbidden the Israelites to contract such marriages. It is therefore evident that these words 
of Ezra do not support the argument of critical scholars that Deuteronomy had a number 
of “prophet” authors. 

Filthiness. Not literal, of the body, but figurative, of the moral and religious filthiness 
of the nations of Canaan. On the Canaanite religion see Vol. II, pp. 38-41. 

12. Give not your daughters. This prohibition is worded after Deut. 7:3. The addition, 
“nor seek their peace,” etc., is taken almost verbally from Deut. 23:6, in reference to the 
Ammonites and Moabites. “That ye may be strong” recalls Deut. 11:8, and the promise, 
“eat the good of the land,” suggests Isa. 1:19. The words “and leave it for an inheritance” 
embody the idea found in several Biblical passages (Deut. 11:9; Prov. 10:27; Eze. 37:25). 

14. Break tliy commandments. Ezra views the sin in which he found his people to 
have fallen as having “grown up unto the heavens” (v. 6). Their sin was tantamount to a 
complete forsaking of God’s commandments, and in this condition they “cannot stand” 
before God (v. 15). Ezra’s public confession on behalf of his people (see Dan. 9:5-16) is 
based partly on the nature of the sin itself, and partly on the fact that they had revealed 
base ingratitude in turning from God so soon after He had forgiven their sins that sent 
them into captivity and had showered favor after favor upon them as they returned to 
Palestine. To fall again into the same transgression was, in Ezra’s estimation, 
unpardonable, and the punishment must certainly be nothing less than irretrievable 
destruction of the nation. 

15. Thou art righteous. On behalf of his people, Ezra acknowledges the holiness of 
God in requiring them to comply with the provisions of His law. In contrast to His 
righteousness, their sinfulness stands forth in all its heinousness. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1-15PK 619-621 
1 IT 279 
1,2 PK 619 
3-6PK 620 
5 GW 178; PK 48 
7-15PK 621 
13—15IT 279 

CHAPTER 10 

1 Shechaniah encourageth Ezra to reform the strange marriages. 6 Ezra mourning 
assembleth the people. 9 The people, at the exhortation of Ezra, repent, and promise 



amendment. 15 The care to perform it. 18 The names of them which had married strange 
wives. 

1. When Ezra. For the remainder of the narrative Ezra retires to the background, and 
speaks of himself in the third person. On the change of persons in pronouns, see on eh. 
7:28. 

A very great congregation. Many people had come to the Temple to attend the daily 
evening sacrifice. Seeing Ezra, the recently appointed leader, in the greatest imaginable 
distress, confessing the sins of the people, these men and women were naturally deeply 
affected. Ezra’s sincerity made such a strong impression on them that they all wept. At 
first Ezra had knelt in prayer with his hands uplifted (eh. 9:5), but soon, sensing more and 
more the heinousness of the people’s transgression, he threw himself upon the ground in 
an attitude of extreme humiliation. Emotional acts such as this could not fail to impress 
an Oriental congregation in the strongest way possible. 

2. Shechaniah. Probably an influential man, for he appears here as spokesman for the 
people. Although his name does not appear among those who had foreign wives, and he 
must therefore be considered as having been free from this sin, he was deeply distressed 
by the fact that his father belonged to the transgressors, for it seems probable that his 
father, Jehiel, is the same person mentioned in v. 26 as among those who had married 
idolatrous wives. Both are of the family of Elam. Shechaniah may have long felt the evil 
influence of his father’s foreign (second) wife, and hence could honestly agree with all 
the words of Ezra. He seems to have been glad that the problem had come to Ezra’s 
attention, who was as much concerned about the situation as he had been. 

There is hope. The penitence of the people, evidenced by their sore weeping, gave 
hope that they might be led to amend their ways and return to God. 

3. To put away all the wives. Shechaniah came forward with concrete suggestions, 
which implies that this situation must have weighed heavily on his heart for some time. 
Ezra had not yet given advice in the matter. Shechaniah apparently considered marriages 
contracted contrary to the law not merely wrongful but actually invalid. The law of 
Moses pennitted divorce for various reasons (see Deut. 24:1-4; Matt. 19:3). 

Such as are born of them. Young children especially require a mother’s care, and it 
would have been extremely cruel to suggest a separation. Furthermore, hereditary 
tendencies were likely to perpetuate the spirit of apostasy. Older children might be 
already tainted with idolatry. It seemed best, at least to Shechaniah, to dismiss the 
children with the mothers. 

According to the law. This suggestion may mean either: (1) let the law, which forbids 
these marriages, in this way be satisfied, or (2) let divorce take place as prescribed by the 
law (see Deut. 24:1). 

4. This matter belongeth unto thee. Or, “it is your task” (RSV). Since Ezra’s 
commission included the responsibility of executing judgment on those who would not 
obey the law of God (eh. 7:26), Ezra was morally obligated to take action. Shechaniah’s 
assurance, “we are with you” (RSV), must have greatly encouraged Ezra, who realized 
that any action he might take in this matter would make him most unpopular with a 
considerable number of guilty men. 

5. Then arose Ezra. Without hesitation he acted at once, binding the religious leaders 
by an oath to carry out the suggestion of Shechaniah, with which Ezra was in complete 



agreement. To confirm such an important decision with an oath was in harmony with OT 
usage (see Joshua 2:12; Deut. 6:13; etc.). 

6. The chamber of Johanan. As to the Temple chambers, see on ch. 8:29. On 
Johanan, see Additional Note on ch. 7. This Johanan seems to have been the grandson of 
Eliashib (Neh. 12:22, 23), high priest in Nehemiah’s time (Neh. 13:4, 5). The Elephantine 
papyri attest that Johanan was high priest in 410 B.C. he already had a “chamber” in the 
Temple, and must therefore have been more than 20 years old at the time (see on Ezra 
3:8). The objection of some commentators to identifying Johanan of this text with the one 
mentioned by Nehemiah and in the Elephantine papyri is not well founded. 

He did eat no bread. Strict fasts of this kind were twice observed by Moses (Ex. 
34:28; Deut. 9:18), and similarly by the inhabitants of Nineveh (Jonah 3:7), but they were 
not common. It was usually considered sufficient to abstain from eating (1 Sam. 1:7; 2 
Sam. 3:35). Sometimes the person who fasted merely abstained from “pleasant bread,” 
“flesh,” and “wine” (Dan. 10:3). Ezra’s great earnestness appears in the severity of his 
fast. Ezra’s mourning in the office of Johanan, following the response of the people, 
clearly reveals that his previous emotional acts were the spontaneous expression of 
genuine horror, and not a well-planned theatrical performance, as some commentators 
have suggested. 

7. All the children of the captivity. A favorite expression with Ezra (see chs. 2:1; 4:1; 
6:16, 19; 8:35; etc.), including all, from both Judah and Israel, who had returned from the 
captivity. 

8. Within three days. The limits of Judea at this time appear to have been Bethel in 
the north, Beth-Pelet and Beer-sheba in the south, Jericho in the east, and Ono in the 
west. As the frontier was nowhere much more than 50 mi. (80 km.) from Jerusalem, three 
days from the day that they heard the proclamation would allow sufficient time for all 
able-bodied men to reach the capital. 

Forfeited. Literally, “devoted.” This forfeiture of property does not mean its 
destruction, as prescribed in Deut. 13:13-17 in the case of a city fallen into idolatry, but 
its appropriation to the sacred use of the Temple (see Lev. 27:28; see on Joshua 6:17). 

9. The twentieth day. In 457 B.C., Kislev 20 was probably Dec. 7 (see p. 108). 

Street. Literally, “wide space.” This was probably the outer court of the large Temple 

compound. Great numbers of people could easily be accommodated there. The present 
Haram esh-Shetif in Jerusalem, which corresponds roughly to the ancient Temple site, 
with all its auxiliary buildings, covers approximately 170,000 sq. yds. (142,137 sq. m.), 
and in its spacious, open courts many thousands of people can be accommodated. The 
situation with the Temple was probably similar. 

Trembling. The seriousness of the reason for which the people had been summoned 
must have been evident to all from the heavy penalties with which they were threatened 
in case they failed to attend. 

The great rain. The ninth month, beginning in our November or December, brings 
heavy rains to Palestine. The winter rains start toward the end of October or the 
beginning of November, with light showers, but by early December heavy rain is falling. 
The incidental mention of “the great rain” is one of those seemingly unimportant touches 
that mark the writer as an eyewitness and the story as authentic. 



10. Ezra the priest stood up. Thus far Ezra seemed to let the civil authorities take the 
leading part in the matter. Now he came forward boldly, denouncing the sin committed, 
and, as supreme leader, commanded the repudiation of the strange wives. 

13. We are many that have transgressed. The marginal rendering of the KJV, 
followed also in the RSV, “we have greatly offended,” is a more exact rendering of the 
original text. Without doubt, however, the greatness of the offense consisted partly in the 
large number who had transgressed. 

14. Let now our rulers. Since there were so many cases that would have to be 
investigated and settled, the suggestion was made that the administrative officers and 
judicial authorities should be authorized to deal with this matter, and that all those who 
had transgressed would be required to appear before them. 

Until the fierce wrath. This clause and the remainder of the verse is grammatically 
somewhat obscure, but the rendering of the KJV and the RSV is probably correct. 

15. Employed about this matter. Literally, “stood up against this matter,” meaning 
that they opposed it. The same words are used in this same sense in 1 Chron. 21:1; Dan. 
8:25; 11:14. 

The reason for the opposition of Jonathan, Jahaziah, and their supporters, is not 
stated. None of the four men is mentioned in the list of the transgressors, and no one 
could accuse them of seeking to protect themselves. The Levite Meshullam of v. 15 
cannot be identified with the Meshullam of v. 29, who did not belong to the Levites, 
because the Levitic transgressors are mentioned in vs. 23, 24. These four men were either 
strongheaded fanatics, who opposed any delay and wanted the matter settled then and 
there, or they had been bribed to act on behalf of some transgressors who did not dare to 
voice their opposition publicly. Whatever their reasons, these men did not succeed. The 
narrative makes clear that the measures Ezra proposed were carried out. 

16. Ezra ... were separated. The KJV faithfully renders the Hebrew text, which gives 
no indication as to who made the selection. Some commentators and translators alter the 
text so as to make it read that the commission was appointed by Ezra. 

Sat down. The sittings of the commission appointed to decide individual cases began 
their work on Tebet 1, which was Dec. 18, 457 B.C., ten days after the mass meeting in 
Jerusalem had decided to refer the matter of the heathen wives to a panel of appointed 
leaders. 

17. Made an end. The work of the commission closed the first day of the first month, 
Nisan 1 of 456 B.C., which was April 15. Thus the sessions of the special court continued 
almost four months, because in the spring of 456 B.C. a second Adar was probably 
inserted before Nisan (see p. 108; also Vol. II, pp. 103, 116). 

18. The sons of the priests. Aware of the danger that the nation might relapse into the 
sin he was seeking to root out, Ezra punished the wrongdoers by placing their names on 
record, that others might take warning. First place in his catalogue of offenders he assigns 
to the priests, for their responsibility was greatest. As the special custodians of the law, 
they were obligated to adhere most strictly to its precepts. Next to the priests he lists the 
Levites, on the same principle. He then concludes with the laymen, arranged under their 
several families. The list of laymen suggests that only 9 of the 33 families mentioned in 
Zerubbabel’s list were involved. There is one additional family that does not appear in 
Zerubbabel’s list. Three of the four priestly families, on the other hand, and even near 
relatives of the high priest, were among the guilty. 



The sons of Jeshua. First among the priests stand four names of sons and other 
relatives of the high priest Jeshua, who had returned to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel. As in 
many other places in the Bible, “son” here stands for “grandson,” or even 
“greatgrandson” (see on eh. 7:1). 

19. Gave their hands. Or, “pledged themselves” (RSV). The procedures followed 
with regard to the divorce of Jeshua’s relatives from their foreign wives are described 
here. First, they bound themselves by shaking hands—probably with the members of the 
commission—to put away their wives and to separate them from the congregation of 
Israel. Then they offered a ram as a trespass offering, according to the law (Lev. 5:14-16; 
cf. on Lev. 4:2). Throughout the remainder of the list only the names of the individuals 
and the families to which they belonged are given, without a repetition of the divorce 
procedure. It is evident from the context, however, that they were required to follow the 
same procedure. 

20. The sons of Immer. On the priestly families, see eh. 2:36-39. Including those of 
the high-priestly family (v. 18), altogether 17 priests are mentioned as guilty. A 
comparison of these names with those given in eh. 2 reveals the fact that not one of the 
legitimate orders of priests who returned with Zerubbabel was free from guilt in this 
matter. Some of the names given in vs. 20-22 reappear in the lists of Neh. 8:4 and Neh. 
10:2-9, and may indicate the same individuals. 

23. The Levites. Of the Levites, only six names are given, and that without stating the 
houses to which they belonged. Kelaiah, better known as Kelita, appears under this latter 
name in Neh. 8:7 and Neh. 10:10. Jozabad appears again in Neh. 8:7. 

24. The singers. The names of one singer and three porters are given. 

25. Of Israel. That is, of the laity, of which 86 names in all are listed. Of the ten 
families represented, nine are mentioned in the list of Zerubbabel. Since two families of 
Bani are given (vs. 29 and 34), and but one in ZerubbabeFs list, the second family of the 
two must have returned at a later time. 

26. Jehiel. Probably the father of the Shechaniah who counseled Ezra (see vs. 24). 

44. All these. In Hebrew the entire verse is somewhat obscure. The most literal 

rendering would be the following, in which only two small grammatical adjustments are 
made in the Hebrew text: “All these had taken strange women, and there were some 
among the women who had given birth to sons.” Most modem scholars would alter the 
text and read the latter part of the verse thus: “and they sent away from them the women 
and their sons.” Whatever the original meaning, it seems clear that the author intended to 
convey the idea that it was more difficult to arrange a divorce where there were children 
than where there were not. All cases were dealt with in the same way. 

The list given in vs. 18-43 shows that 113 men were guilty of marrying heathen 
wives. It would be interesting to know the size of the population of Judea in Ezra’s time, 
in order to secure a right picture of the extent of this evil in Judea. Since such figures are 
not available, a comparison can be made only with the people who had come to Judea 
with Zerubbabel about 80 years earlier. 

Number of Number of men 

men with strange 

returning wives Percentage 

with 

Zerubbabel 



Priests 

4,289 

17 

0.4 

Levites 

74 

6 

8.1 

Singers 

128 

1 

0.8 

Porters 

139 

3 

2.2 

Laity 

24,144 

86 

0.4 

Total 

28,774 

113 

0.3 


Since so few Levites had returned in Zerubbabel’s time, the percentage of 
transgressors in this group seems high in comparison with the other groups listed. It is 
apparent that in all groups an average of at least 3 men in every 1,000 had married 
foreign women. The small percentage may explain, in part, why Ezra experienced little or 
no opposition to the reform measures he proposed to carry out. 

Although the number of transgressors was relatively small, the tendency was 
dangerous, and Ezra, like other serious-minded leaders, was determined to keep the 
nation free from pagan influence. Parallels to Ezra’s reform occurred among other 
ancient nations, though usually with the purpose of keeping the race pure. In Rome 
patricians were prohibited from marrying plebeians before 445 B.C. (some say 437). In 
451/50 B.C. Pericles enforced a law in Athens, according to which only those whose 
parents were full-blooded Athenians could remain Athenian citizens. Almost 5,000 
persons were sold into slavery because they were so unfortunate as not to be of pure 
Athenian stock. 

Ezra knew that the great disaster of 586 B.C., when Jerusalem was destroyed and the 
nation ceased to exist, had resulted from idolatry. A recurrence of those conditions must 
now be avoided by all means. The evil, still of small proportions when he reached 
Jerusalem, would, if unchecked, be out of hand in a short time. Therefore it had to be 
eradicated irrespective of individual hardships. The situation was especially dangerous 
because of the fact that leaders and members of the high-priestly family were among the 
transgressors. The measures of Ezra now, and of Nehemiah later, were instrumental in 
leading the Jews to look with abhorrence on mixed marriages, an attitude that has kept 
the Jewish nation comparatively free of intermarriage to the present day. In contrast, the 
ancient nations surrounding Judea have been lost through racial admixture and migration. 

ELLEN G. WHITE COMMENTS 

1-5PK 622 
3 PK 623 


5 Nichol, F. D. (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible 
with exegetical and expository comment. Commentary Reference Series (Ezr 9:1). 
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association. 

6 Nichol, F. D. (1978). The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary : The Holy Bible 
with exegetical and expository comment. Commentary Reference Series (Ezr 2:35). 
Washington, D.C.: Review and Herald Publishing Association.